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Op-Ed: School bus driver appreciation day

The first Monday in May is school bus driver appreciation day
2022 04 19 school bus-lights-red-amber-pexels-cottonbro-4543110

The first Monday in May is school bus driver appreciation day.

For us, this means celebrating the 80 bus drivers who keep 88 school buses and 72 routes running each school day.

These drivers—and all the mechanics, dispatchers, and administrators who support them—fundamentally understand their role in creating a moving ecosystem of community and connection as they bookend the school experience of our young people.

School transportation has emerging and sustained challenges that don’t receive the same airtime as our classroom-based challenges.

For us, the rising cost of fuel will add an additional $250,000 to our budget, with no new money for transportation to offset these increases in the province’s recent budget—and no relief from gas prices in sight.

Further, inflation will add to the cost of new bus acquisitions—acquisitions that will be required as our community continues to grow.

This will demand our creativity and ingenuity from our division as we address these challenges amid a 3.5-million-dollar deficit of our own.

While we work on these challenges, there is one additional challenge to be addressed. It is the most important challenge—and one we can only solve with your help.

It’s about the safety of students on our buses.

Here’s what we know to be true: the greatest danger to children riding a school bus is what happens to them immediately before they step on, or immediately after they step off, a school bus.

The majority of these accidents are drivers passing stopped school buses.

Casually and unnecessarily, these events are called flybys.

When a school bus comes to a stop and either puts on its red flashing lights or puts out its stop signs, all lanes of traffic must stop.

If it’s a divided highway, then only the lanes on the side of the bus need to stop. Our amber lights tell you a bus is getting ready to stop.

The point is: you’ve got to stop. The fine for failing to do so is $543. And as we work to hold onto every dollar we have at the division, we want you to hold on to your dollars too.

For the commuters reading, know that this isn’t the case in Calgary.

They have a city bylaw that overrides the provincial law. This is not the case in the Foothills. I know, it’s confusing.

But what is clear is that we all share a role in the safety of students who ride the bus.

Let their focus be on the creation of community, friendship, and connection—and not about concerns for their safety.

Stopping for a school bus is, without question, an act of safety and of gratitude for our drivers.

Roll on.