LAND O' LAKES, Fla. — Pasco County Schools has developed an innovative program to ensure that elementary students get off the bus at the right stop in the afternoon.
Wristbands were purchased by the transportation department and then distributed during registration in August. A student's name and grade level, an abbreviation of the name of his or her school, the school's telephone number, and the student's bus route and stop number are printed on the bands. Parents were asked to attach the bands to their kids' backpacks.
Transportation Director Gary Sawyer said that the colors of the wristbands vary and represent the bus routes. To help students determine which buses they should board, the department staff glued several wristbands to pieces of paper, wrote the route numbers on the papers and hung them in the bus windows. The students could then match their wristbands with the ones in the windows.
During the first three weeks of the school year, bus drivers were given an attendance sheet and instructed to take attendance as the students boarded their buses in the afternoon.
"We targeted three weeks so that we would know that the students got on the buses," Sawyer explained. "Plus, after a month or so, drivers know the students and where they need to exit. The drivers check the bus stop number on the wristbands before the students exit to make sure that they get off at the correct stops."
The department implemented the program because in the past, some young students would disembark their buses at the incorrect stop the first few days of school, causing a panic.
The program is an expanded version of one that has been running at Mittye P. Locke Elementary, one of the district's elementary schools, for about five years.
Tammy Berryhill, principal at Mittye P. Locke, said that for her program, the wristbands were color-coded (without any text on them) to correspond with the buses, helping students figure out which ones they should board.
"This new program is an improvement to our program," Berryhill said. "It takes safety to the next level."
Berryhill said that school staff members worked with the students to help them remember to show their wristbands to their bus drivers, and they also showed parents ways to attach the bands to backpacks for them to be accessible to the drivers.
Pasco County Schools piloted the program in May. Sawyer said that feedback was positive.
"I think people are happy that we're trying something that will help to keep track of students," Sawyer said. "It should tighten things up."