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School buses return; now spell patience
Patience and awareness on the part of drivers and parents will be helpful, officials say.
By MICHELE MILLER, Times Staff Writer
Published August 19, 2007
Those big yellow school buses will be out in force Monday for the start of the school year, and "patience" is the word for the wise.
That sage advice comes from Mike Park, director of transportation for the Pasco County School system.
Safely busing some 37,000 students is no doubt a challenge, especially on that first day when there's tons of extra traffic around the schools, routes tend to be a sluggish and there are the inevitable kinks to be worked out.
"Everybody needs to have a lot of patience," said Park. "And we'll make it okay."
Some helpful hints for local drivers who may find their commute slow-going:
- Give yourself some extra time by leaving a little early this week.
- Be aware of children waiting at bus stops along the side of the road. "Kids being kids, they might be playing around and not paying attention," said Park. "Look around and slow down a little when you're coming up on a bus stop."
- About those flashing yellow lights on the bus: "That's us telling you we're going to stop," Park said. "It doesn't mean speed up, even though some people do that."
- As for the flashing red lights and that big red STOP sign that opens out on the side of the bus: That means "Stop," period. "Give us some time to get all the kids off the bus safely," Park said.
Tips for parents and students:
- Be at the bus stop at least five minutes early and stand a safe distance from the road.
- Put a name tag on your young child - especially first-time bus riders - with his or her name, bus number and bus stop.
- Parents should review safety rules with their child.
- Make a note of your child's bus number and keep handy the district's transportation numbers: 727 774-0400 in west Pasco; (352) 524-0400 in east Pasco; and (813) 794-0400 in central Pasco. Better yet, program the number into your cell phone so you can call right away if there's a problem or delay.
- But be patient in the afternoons: Buses will probably run a little late as the schools try to make sure the right kids get on the right buses.
- If your child is a bus rider, but you're planning on driving him or her to school Monday, plan on picking him or her up, too. "The first time they ride the bus should be from the home bus stop," especially for young or first-time bus riders who might be confused at the end of the school day, Park said. "There's 65 students and one bus driver," he said. "There's no way they're going to know whether your child belongs on their bus in the afternoon - especially if your child didn't ride the bus in the morning."
- Make sure your child knows NOT to get off the bus if they are unsure of their stop or if a new friend invites them home. Students who are unsure of their stop should alert the bus driver. "All the buses have radios and we're talking to them all the time," said Park. "We'll make sure the child gets to where they are supposed to." If your child is unfamiliar with the bus route, drive it with your child today and point out landmarks that will make them aware of their upcoming bus stop.
Michele Miller may be reached in west Pasco at (727) 869-6251 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6251. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.