SLOUGHHOUSE, Calif. — In this small, rural town, in a school flanked by grazing goats and cattle, love for the school bus reached a fever pitch in February.
Several hundred elementary students, clad in yellow T-shirts, screamed in eardrum-bursting unison, “We love the bus!”
U.S. Congressman Ami Bera, one of the speakers at this Love the Bus main event at Cosumnes River Elementary, had directed the kids to yell “loud enough so President Obama can hear” all the way in Washington.
At the Feb. 19 event, organized by the American School Bus Council (ASBC), Bera and other dignitaries told the crowd of energetic pupils about the safety, educational and environmental benefits of the school bus.
Jared Blumenfeld, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9 administrator, noted that each school bus takes 36 cars off of the road.
“I think the yellow school bus is the best bus there is,” Blumenfeld told the students. “You get to have a great time, and you’ll save the planet.”
Cosumnes River Elementary and its district, Elk Grove Unified School District (USD), provided a compelling school bus success story. About 60% of the students at Cosumnes (around 300 of 500 total) ride the bus to and from school daily.
Elk Grove USD has taken steps to reduce emissions in its fleet by acquiring new alternative fuel buses and retrofitting older diesel buses with particulate filters. The district, which runs about 200 school buses total, bought 40 propane buses this year and also has 25 compressed natural gas buses in operation.
Also, Elk Grove USD has made transportation for field trips a priority. The district supplies school buses for some 6,000 field trips per year for students at its 61 schools.
At the ASBC event at Cosumnes River Elementary, Elk Grove Director of Transportation Jill Gayaldo surprised the students by announcing that her department would reward their “Love the Bus” spirit by giving them a field trip to a destination of their choosing.
Elk Grove USD was also on the receiving end of accolades. ASBC representative Leon Langley noted that while California does not require districts to provide transportation service, “Elk Grove has embraced the school bus” and the benefits it provides to students and the community.
Langley presented ASBC’s School Bus Champion Award to Elk Grove USD. Superintendent Chris Hoffman accepted the award for the district, highlighting Gayaldo’s work in running an exemplary transportation operation.
“She does an absolutely phenomenal job,” Hoffman said, adding that the district’s buses transport students 2.7 million miles per year. “Because of that, our kids are as safe as possible.”
Hoffman also recognized Elk Grove USD’s school bus driver of the year, Stephonia Spivey.
The Love the Bus event also drew officials from the Elk Grove school board, the California Department of Education and ASBC’s member organizations — the three national pupil transportation associations and the large school bus OEMs.
After the dignitaries stepped outside to pose for photos in front of Elk Grove school buses, eager youngsters led them on tours of their school. Cosumnes River is the smallest elementary school in the district, but in February its students showed that they have no shortage of school bus spirit.