It’s all about the bus

They’re back.

Those bright yellow school buses are on the roads, ferrying students from sidewalks and street corners to the front door of school.

“It’s GREAT to be back. I love seeing how much the kids have grown every September,” said Long Beach bus driver Joanne Rea.

All drivers are urged to heed laws forbidding the passing of a school bus, yet it is estimated that 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass New York state school buses every day, according to Operation Safe Stop, operated by the New York State Education Department, the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and other organizations.

A bus driver for 14 years, Rea is president of the Long Beach School Employees Association. She asks every driver to consider:

“What if the child crossing the road to get to the bus was yours? Would you stop then?”

She said she has unfortunately witnessed “too many close calls.”

Fines for passing a stopped school bus are a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $400 on the first conviction.

Like other bus drivers, Rea completes annual testing and training to stay on top of the duties of her job.  All school bus drivers must take a minimum of two, two-hour refresher training sessions; pass a physical; have a defensive driving performance review; conduct three bus safety drills each route; have a driving record review; and be subject to post-accident drug and alcohol testing. Every two years, they must also take a road test, as well as a written or oral test. Like most of her colleagues across the state, Rea has driven her bus in torrential rain, whiteout snowstorms and extreme heat.

NYSUT’s Fact Sheet for School Transportation Professionals includes information and resources on professional development, health and safety, and student behavior.

Rea said she greets every student clambering up the stairs in the morning with, “Good Morning, what a great day today is … right?”

The bus is where lunch pails clang against seats; kids buzz with talk about their day; and homework is stuffed in backpacks.

The bus is where safety is paramount. Kids learn about bullying. In Long Beach, Rea said, students are instructed about anti-bullying as part of their code of conduct within the school district, including the buses.

Wherever necessary, that code is enforced by bus drivers, bus matrons and bus aides, she said.

“I treat every child on my bus as if they were my own and

that respect is given back from the kids because they don’t seem to want to

‘disappoint me.’ That being said, they are kids and sometimes have a bad

day. When that happens, I reason with them and tell them the best part of a

bad day is bedtime because, when you wake up in the morning, it’s a fresh

new day!”

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