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‘Keep calm and drive yellow buses’

From our perspective, school bus drivers have one of the hardest jobs in education.

Up before dawn, they drive their big yellow vehicles along the city’s narrowest and busiest roads to pick up children who are still wiping the sleep from their eyes. Many of those children come from homes where life is very hard, and they bring plenty of emotional baggage aboard the buses, along with backpacks full of books and homework.

The bus routes can be long, and many drivers must complete more than one of them before their mornings are over. And then they must turn around and do the whole thing again in reverse in the afternoon, sometimes arriving back at home long after dark.

Add to all these challenges the fact that many children have a hard time sitting still or being quiet during long drives and the real necessity of bus drivers being utterly focused on maneuvering their vehicles safely, along with the fact that pay rates for the job are comparatively low, and it becomes obvious why so few people seek this kind of work.

This week is Bus Driver Appreciation Week, and it’s a good chance for parents and students to remember just how vital an educational component these drivers are. To be sure, teachers, principals and other school administrators likely have a greater immediate impact on a student’s education, but school bus drivers should not be ignored.

Throughout the city this week, especially on Wednesday, Bus Driver Appreciation Day, students have been taking the time to tell drivers how thankful they are for the drivers’ service.

At John Yeates Middle School, for example, students lined up on Wednesday with signs that said, “Keep calm and drive yellow buses” or simply “Thank you.” They presented goodie bags filled with water bottles and snacks to the drivers, along with hand-drawn pictures for the drivers to keep.

“I love it,” bus driver Toni Smith said while holding a bag with a hand-drawn, bright-yellow school bus. “It’s really nice for them to take the time to actually draw a picture, and it’s really good.”

The students’ efforts were surely an encouragement to the drivers, who often operate under the educational radar. We join those children in offering a sincere “Thank you” to the bus drivers, along with what seemed like the best and most apropos advice of the day: “Keep calm.”