Editor's note: This article is compiled by the men and women who transport students throughout Juniata County.
The day of a school bus driver begins quite early - around 5:30 a.m. - to get ready for the morning. After arriving at the bus garage, all drivers start their morning with a 15 minute pre-trip of their assigned bus. Drivers inspect the lights, tires, fluids and general mechanics of the bus. The driver then fills out the daily log paperwork and settles in for the trip. For most routes, this is all done before 6:45 a.m. - fairly early by most workers' standards!
Equipped with a safe and reliable vehicle, and perhaps some helpful caffeine from an earlier cup of coffee, drivers get rolling to their first pick-up. While driving the bus route, the driver must responsibly operate the bus while also watching for other motorists, keeping the students safely in their seats and preparing to stop at each district-approved bus stop.
JV Family photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Joe Shearer stands outside a school bus in Juniata County. Shearer is a bus driver for the Juniata County School District. He also is a school board member.
As the first face of the school district students see each morning, drivers are trained to be positive and greet each child with a friendly "good morning" as they enter the vehicle. While riding to school, students usually carry on casual conversations, developing their ideas on how to solve world problems and discussing the importance of cartoons and recess.
After picking up the students, the driver heads to each school and unloads them for a day of learning. Drivers then complete a quick walk through of the bus to be sure no lunch boxes or students have been left behind. The driver then returns to the garage and thoroughly checks the bus once again for sleeping children or forgotten belongings.
Around 2:30 p.m., and perhaps after barn work, a second job, a nap, babysitting, working in the garage or some other adventure, drivers climb back into the bus and conduct another pre-trip inspection for the afternoon run. All drivers arrive at their first school prior to dismissal and have casual meetings with one another discussing life, recent news events or the always-challenging management of their students.
When the children are dismissed from school, they board the bus. While boarding, drivers make sure that only assigned students board the vehicle, or unassigned ones have a guest bus pass to ride home with a friend. After ensuring all the students are safely on board the vehicle, drivers depart for their first afternoon stop, which is normally their last stop in the morning.
While traveling home, students discuss their day at school and drivers keep track of what students are riding and that they are getting off at their designated bus stops. After safely delivering the last students, the driver returns back to the garage, checks the bus once again for sleeping children and closes out the day's post-trip log. After all of this, it's normally nearing 5 p.m. and the work day is finally finished. Occasionally, drivers have additional assignments such as vo-tech runs, field trips or sporting events.
Driving a school bus requires a great deal of responsibility, but it's also one of the most rewarding careers. Having the opportunity to transport tomorrow's future while witnessing their growth and success in life is a wonderful privilege.
School student transportation is also a very important part of the educational system. Ensuring the students' safe and comfortable ride to school is the first step in setting them up for success in the classroom each morning.
The life of a school bus driver may not be glamorous, but it is what 70 professional operators choose to do in Juniata County each and every day.
For more information about school bus drivers or becoming a school bus driver, visit the PennDOT website or contact the Juniata County Schools Transportation Office.