On Monday morning, a fleet of over 160 buses will roll onto Sampson County and Clinton roadways, stopping along the way to pick up some 7,500 children and transport them to their first day of school.
“We are ready,” said Herb Sanderson, transportation director for Clinton City and Sampson County schools. “We have a great core group of drivers, and our staff members did an incredible job this summer working to get all the buses ready for the upcoming school year.”
After a summer that had mechanics working in over 100-degree temperatures on a daily basis in order to make sure the buses were in tip-top shape, Sanderson hosted an annual meeting for the drivers at Sampson Community College last Thursday.
“It is a meeting to just let the drivers know what to expect for the school year and hear from our special guests,” he said. “I think everyone is excited and ready to get back to work; that is a great feeling.”
The special guests at the meeting were superintendents Dr. Ethan Lenker, from Sampson County Schools, and Stuart Blount, from Clinton City; N.C. Highway Patrol trooper J.L. Murphy, and others.
“It is so important what you do everyday for our children,” Lenker told the crowd made up mostly of bus drivers. “Each one of you play a valuable role with each student who gets on your school bus. You are the first face they see in the morning and the last one they see when they go home. You set the tone for their entire day.”
Blount echoed Lenker’s statements, calling the drivers the “unsung heroes” of the school system.
“I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” he stressed. “You truly are the unsung heroes each day. You have a tough job and we really appreciate what you do.”
Bus drivers with both school systems will travel an estimated 12,000 miles — using about 550 man hours — each day and amassings some two million miles a year. Incredibly, the drivers’ have not had any serious accidents in years.
“It is a big challenge,” Sanderson admitted, “but we are really blessed to have these amazing drivers who have great attitudes. You can see them here at the meeting, they are excited and ready to go to work.”
One thing Sanderson is requesting as the new school year gets under way is patience. With new routes this year, as well as some new drivers learning those routes, having that patience from parents in the first few days of school will be crucial.
“We just ask that parents give the drivers a chance to learn the route and be patient,” he said. “If they have any issues with the buses, they can call their principal and we will make sure and take care of it as soon as possible, but during that first week, we ask they just be a little patient with us.”
He also requests that students review safe bus and bus stop etiquette by visiting www.sampson.k12.nc.us/education/dept/dept.php?sectionid=2335).
“We would like for the students and parents to check it out,” Sanderson noted. “There are a lot of great tips on that site, as well as fun stuff for the kids.”
When Trooper Murphy took the stage, he reminded bus drivers that they are not allowed to talk on cell phones iwhile on the bus; he also reminded drivers about seat belt and bus safety.
“If you have a driver that you see breaking the laws, try and get their license plate number or car description and we will check it out,” he told the drivers. “We will be monitoring problem areas and if there is something we need to check out, let us know.”
“The motoring public should be aware that school is back in and also be patient with our drivers,” he said. “Like I said, some of these drivers will have new routes and be getting used to them, so if you could reduce speeds during the morning, from 6 to 8 a.m., and in the afternoons from 3 to 5:30 p.m. You should be expecting the buses to stop at their stops and watch for children.”
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.