TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas will recognize its men and women who transport nearly 230,000 students to and from school by observing School Bus Drivers’ Appreciation Day.

Under a proclamation from Gov. Sam Brownback, the day of recognition will be Wednesday, Oct. 21, which falls during National School Bus Safety Week.

“Bus drivers are extremely valuable assets,” said Keith Dreiling, director of the Kansas State Department of Education’s School Bus Safety Unit. “They are unsung heroes in the communities across the state. I hope everyone will thank these men and women for their time and talent in making sure our students are transported to and from school and activities safely.”

There are 4,246 school bus drivers with CDLs in the state of Kansas. However, there is a shortage of drivers across the state, as well as the country, Dreiling said.

First-year school bus driver Alicia Garcia, who works for Fort Larned Unified School District 495, earned her CDL this summer, and parents are showing their appreciation for her hard work.

“She is the first face that my children see when they head off to school, and she always greets them with a big smile,” parent Jennifer Forbes wrote in an email to Richard Fairchild, director of transportation at the district. “I believe she truly loves and cares about my own two preschoolers, and I’m sure all other preschoolers on her bus, too.”

With her morning and afternoon school bus runs, Garcia logs more than 50 miles each day.

“It’s a very rewarding job,” she said.

Fairchild said that it is drivers like Garcia who help contribute to the safety of Kansas’ children.

“Patience is important,” he said. “If the drivers were in it for the money, they are in the wrong career field. There is a lot more at stake than just income. The goal is the safety of our children. We don’t get a second opportunity to do it — it has to be right the first time.”

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