Maureen Moore, a school bus driver at West Point Tours in Cornwall, N.Y., has driven a school bus for about 10 years. West Point Tours is a private operator with about 200 buses. The contractor serves three school districts. Every year, Moore conducts safety drills at the two schools where she drives; every year she says it’s a repeat of the same.
“I’ve done a lot of drills,” Moore says. “I started to realize that by the time a child hits the second or third grade, a lot of it is repetitive.”
Moore, mother of three grown children, wanted to do something else but scarcely had an idea of what. Then an idea peeked its nose out at her and triggered her creative talents.
Groundhogs spur safety strategy
Moore and a small group of her driving buddies sometimes began their routes early and met at the middle school to wait for students to board the buses. One day while they sat around, a family of groundhogs came out for some sun. Moore, an amateur photographer, began to shoot photos of the groundhogs.
“The pictures came out so fabulous. I thought the kids on my bus would really love this,” she says.
But Moore didn’t stop there. She created a story about the groundhogs to accompany the images.
“To take an animal that some kids see every day and make it something they can associate with being safe on the bus — I thought this would be an interesting way to approach school bus safety.”
In a matter of months, Moore had penned and published a booklet titled “Gerry the Groundhog Learns About School Bus Safety.”
The 11-page booklet follows the adventures of Gerry, a groundhog who lives under a rock with his mom and dad in front of an elementary school. Gerry sees the excitement of the children as they embark and disembark from the school bus each day. He yearns to do the same. Gerry watches and learns as a school bus driver teaches her passengers about school bus safety, then takes his chance to ride the school bus as well. The children scream at his presence on the bus and Gerry learns another rule: groundhogs are not allowed on the school bus.
Moore wanted her main character’s name to start with a G because it would go well with groundhog. She also thought it important that the name fit both genders. She wanted children with names like Geraldine or Gerald to be able to relate.
The beautifully rendered booklet features five images of Gerry and his family and six pages of easy-to-read text. Graphic designer Pat Brodesky, a friend of Moore’s, designed the booklet and its earth-tones color scheme. The first edition of the booklet was printed at a company called Beard Printing.