In school districts across the country — and the world, for that matter — one asset has been essentially forgotten. This asset is often the first to greet students in the morning and the last to give a final goodbye in the afternoon. These individuals endure ever-changing weather. They wake up earlier than most to begin their days. Many work a second or even third job; some are retirees or parents. However, for some reason, they have been forgotten in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have seen touching videos and stories from all over the U.S. posted on social media honoring educators. We have seen caravans of teachers and principals rolling through neighborhoods in their personal vehicles holding signs and greeting the students.
However, during this crisis, the asset I am thinking of is not posting all their wonderful deeds on social media.
Did you know there is only one individual that may interact with a student from kindergarten through twelfth grade? Did you know that this forgotten asset can set the tone of a child’s day, just by a simple good morning or a kind gesture? Did you know that this asset can say something so profound that a child who had a bad day at school may leave the bus with a smile?
This asset is our wonderful bus drivers!
I want to honor the school bus drivers and assistants, many of whom are out of work right now. Some are still receiving pay, and some are not. No matter: they deserve a round of applause.
The bus driver serves a pivotal role in all school districts. I would like to share a few of the kind gestures of care and service some of our bus drivers have shared with me.
As the teacher caravans rolled through neighborhoods (I wonder if any of those educators invited a bus driver along?), we had a driver contact one of our route specialists about doing something similar. Given the OK, and with no fanfare or caravan of teachers following, she made signs and taped them to the outside of her personal vehicle. She and her grandchildren loaded her minivan and went through every neighborhood she normally drives her bus through, just to wave at her students.
We have had multiple drivers personally call their students’ parents just to check on their children. Many of our special-needs bus drivers have called parents regularly to check not only on their “precious cargo,” but the students’ parents and caregivers as well.
We had one driver go door to door, maintaining social distancing protocol, to give each of her students an Easter gift.
The forgotten asset — our school bus drivers — has stepped up in a big way just to say, “I care for the students I serve,” and “I miss my students.”
Transportation departments throughout the country have stepped up, delivering lunches and volunteering their time and services. They are being asked to serve in ways they never imagined.
We are now heading into a most unusual end to the school year. The forgotten assets will wash and prepare to turn in their buses. The teachers will finish their online courses and submit grades, and principals will evaluate their staff. The bus drivers will go quietly into the next school year, ready to begin again. Hopefully, life will return to “normal,” and on the first day of school the bus drivers will be the first to greet the students with a “Good morning.” They, as always, will set the tone for the day.
Thank you to all the wonderful, amazing bus-driving professionals.
Tony Pollard is the transportation supervisor for Baldwin County (Ala.) Public Schools.