More than 135 students hopped on board big yellow school buses Wednesday night for their very first ride.
The 11th annual First Riders’ Night hosted by St. Albert Public Schools introduced kids from Kindergarten through Grade 3 to school bus safety rules including how to get on and off the bus safely. It also included a ride on a school bus.
For five-year-old Tristan Vandenbiggelaar, riding the school bus was a big deal.
“This is going to be awesome,” he said.
Sitting cross-legged and peering out the window during the ten-minute ride, the Keenooshayo School kindergartener already looked like an old pro taking the bus.
It seems the safety messages got through to Tristan because he had only one question for the bus driver prior to the ride, “How do you stop?”
“I’m excited, he’s so excited – we’re ready,” said Tristan’s mom Katherine.
She chose to attend the First Riders’ Night with Tristan to help him become comfortable with riding the bus every day and learn how to safely get on and off the bus.
Staying seated, and not yelling or screaming are basic rules on the school bus, but there are other tips that bus drivers offer.
Driver Beth Kemps said it’s important to make sure students are dressed appropriately for the weather. Though it may be a short walk from the house to bus to school, if the bus breaks down in the winter, she wants to be sure her riders will be warm.
The start of the school year is also a great time to remind parents to be on time.
“Be on time and be there to pick up our kids when you’re supposed to be,” Kemps says.
Brian Thompkins has been a bus driver for three years. He said it’s important for children in the younger grades especially, to sit properly in their seats.
“They can’t see over the seats so they get up on their knees and look over the seats,” said Thompkins. “And if I ever get into a collision or have to make a panic stop, they’re going to injure their backs.”
Brian’s wife, Vickie, also drives a school bus.
Though the bulk of their job involves shuttling and interacting with youngsters, a school bus driver’s day begins long before the children start filling the seats.
“I don’t think the parents realize how much training we take or how much care we take with the bus,” Vickie said. “We have to be down at the yard by 6:30 in the morning. We have to pre-trip our buses every day. We have to look under the hood, we have to go all the way around our buses, check the tires, the doors, the windows, check the oil.”
The drivers are also responsible for cleaning and fueling their bus.
The Thompkins are both school bus drivers because they love driving, and these two grandparents also love kids.
“The kids say stuff that just crack us up,” Vickie said. “I had one little guy say to me, ‘Are you a granny?’ I said yes, and he said, ‘Whoa, and you drive a bus?’”