Clark, Champaign schools remind students, staff of bus safety

National Bus Safety Week offers opportunities to stress safety for drivers, others.

Local Clark and Champaign County schools are taking time to remind students and staff about the importance of bus safety.

National School Bus Safety Week is from Oct. 16-20, a time when the Ohio State Highway Patrol increases enforcement efforts on school bus violations, which include passing a stopped school bus, school zone offenses and other related activity.

The week, which has the theme “BEEP! BEEP! School bus safety starts with me,” serves as a reminder to motorists, students and school bus drivers of the important role they have in making sure children are safe, and the dangers outside the school bus.

“Our commitment is protecting our students who ride school transportation every day,” said Col. Charles A. Jones, Patrol superintendent. “Drivers are required to stop for school buses loading and unloading passengers. However, children must always check both ways and proceed with caution when crossing the roadway.”

Before stopping, school buses show yellow warning lights that signify the bus is about to stop. Once stopped, they show red flashing lights and a stop sign. Motorists who approach a stopped bus from either direction are required to stop at least 10 feet from the bus. When a road is divided into four or more lanes, only traffic driving the same direction as the bus must stop.

Since 2018, there has been 6,298 school bus-related traffic crashed in Ohio, resulting in eight fatalities, in which one was a school bus occupant, and 1,982 injuries, according to OSHP.

Several local schools, including Clark-Shawnee Local, Graham Local, Northwestern Local, Tecumseh Local, Triad Local and Urbana City, used the week to give refreshers on bus safety and treat their drivers.

Tecumseh has conducted bus evacuation drills for all routes, specifically the students practice of dismounting the bus at the rear emergency exit under the supervision of the bus driver.

“These types of drills are necessary to help our students become acclimated to the evacuation process,” said Superintendent Paula Crew. “Essentially, we need them to know what to do in the event they ever need to evacuate a bus to safety. By practicing ahead of time, the students can follow safety protocols in a more orderly fashion.”

This week, Tecumseh High School Junior Optimist Club members delivered white chocolate treats to the bus drivers’ mailboxes as a small way to let them know they’re appreciated.

“Our bus drivers are the first and last individuals who see our bus riders each day, so they have the potential to have a positive impact with our students,” Crew said. “We attempt to routinely acknowledge our gratitude to our bus drivers for the care in which they take to keep our students safe.”

Clark-Shawnee did bus evacuations, and the transportation department partnered with a high school videography class to create bus safety videos for students to make sure they are aware of bus safety procedures.

“We know that driving a school bus is a tough and important job. Bus drivers must simultaneously adhere to all traffic rules, be alert to other drivers on the road, and facilitate student safety for those riding the bus,” said Superintendent Brian Kuhn.

The district supports and shows appreciation to employees and bus drivers through their RECHARGE initiative, where each month they facilitate RECHARGE stations for employees to “take a moment to breathe and receive tangible acts of appreciation.”

Kuhn said the district also implemented a new routing system this school year, which includes an app for parents that provides them with estimated student pick-up and drop-off times. He said within the next few weeks, GPS-enabled tablets will be installed on buses so drivers have real-time routes on their buses and parents can receive updates in real-time

“When we are short a driver due to illness, this system allows us to consolidate routes electronically and push the modified routes to drivers’ tablets instantly. It also provides a safer method for substitute drivers to follow a route as opposed to printed route sheets,” he said

Urbana took additional time this week to remind students about bus rules and expectations a little more in depth, said Superintendent Charles Thiel.

Thiel said they also team up with troopers for a few days as they follow select bus routes to observe bus stops and catch any red-light violators when the buses are picking up or dropping off students.

Graham said this is always an important week in the district, and the transportation team and administration put a lot of planning into it to make it meaningful for all.

“Safety is our number one priority in the district, so putting a priority on School Bus Safety Week is very important to our transportation team and district staff,” said Superintendent Chad Lensman. “School bus safety is not just what our drivers and students are doing on the bus; it includes what the other drivers are doing on the road. It is important that all drivers obey the school bus traffic laws and help to protect all of our students as they get on and off the bus and travel to and from school.”

The week included: a theme week for students and staff to show support by dressing up; a school bus safety coloring contest in elementary school, where winners selected by drivers; and ride-alongs by administration, teachers, board members and local leaders on routes with the drivers to see how they’re promoting safety and supporting students, and how other drivers interact with the buses.

Triad does a district-wide safety week the first week of October with different bus safety drills and evacuations, as well as give the drivers treats to thank them for what they do.

“Our bus drivers are a vital part of the organization. They are one of the few staff members that get to build a relationship with their students, which lasts for up to 15 years,” said Superintendent Vickie Maruniak. “They form a very special bond with our students and work very hard to keep them safe each and every day.”

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