SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS READY TO ROLL
School bus driver Sherri Wake is getting ready to hit the road next week when Niagara students head back to the classroom.
Bus drivers are often the first and last point of contact for students on a school day.
And with classes starting next week, hundreds of them are getting ready to play a role in the lives of young learners across Niagara.
Sherri Wake is one of more than 500 drivers who will deliver 31,000 pupils to their respective facilities within the public and Catholic boards throughout the 2018-19 academic year.
She has been behind the wheel for the past 15 years developing relationships with students and their parents, making sure they are delivered on time and safely.
She says one of the most rewarding parts of her job is watching the young riders grow from the kindergarten age to young adults when they get ready for high school.
“It makes a huge difference and you end up having a rapport with the family,” she says.
She says select students can be more “challenging” than others and that some of the younger ones must be monitored closely through the rearview mirror, especially in September when many are still adapting to riding on a bus.
“This is probably the first time they’ve been in a vehicle when they haven’t had to be in a booster or car seat,” says Wake.
Bullying is an issue on school property, but also on the way there, says the veteran bus driver.
“If something piques our interest, we’re definitely going to make sure we take care of it,” she says.
Lori Powell, executive director of Niagara Student Transportation Services, the organization that works with both English school boards to co-ordinate busing, says routes have been mapped out and tested ahead of the “communication mode” that’s underway to work with parents and schools about any changes that may apply to students.
Students in kindergarten who live 800 metres or less from a school are ineligible for arranged transportation.
Those in grades 1 to 8 inside a 1.6-kilometre radius are required to find their own way to class and students who are in high school can catch a bus if they live more than 2.5 kilometres from their home school.
There are also “home school” designations in place, meaning students can only be bussed to the facility that is closest to home and not one on the opposite side of their town or city.
“Approximately 50 per cent of the students between the public and Catholic boards are eligible for transportation,” says Powell.
Measures are established to ensure that some of the longer routes, such as the ones students in Fort Erie take to get to Lakeshore Catholic High School in Port Colborne, don’t exceed an hour.
“We try very hard to keep the ride times under 60 minutes each way,” says Powell.
It is expected that police will be out in full force on the first day of school next week, and Powell says the local transportation company hopes people will be aware and cautious of an influx of children out and about near schools.
“We want to start the school year safe, and that requires all of us to pay attention to school buses and pedestrians,” she says.
There is not a shortage of drivers, but new recruits are always welcome to cover for illnesses and vacation time.
For more information, you can visit www.nsts.ca.