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Originally published: 2012-11-08 11:32:01
Last modified: 2012-11-08 11:32:01

From the Superintendent’s Desk - School bus safety

David Burleson

Greetings from Avery County Schools! I hope everyone has enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather, but it looks like winter is just around the corner. 

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction designated October as “School Bus Safety” month. Our bus drives are called upon to deliver our most precious cargo, our students, to and from school, and at times over very treacherous roads under extreme conditions. I believe that ACS has the best drivers in the state! Leading the way is Mitch Banner, 2012 Road-oe Bus Driver of the Year for North Carolina! All of our drivers are well-trained, dedicated and committed to student safety. Most leave as early as 5:30 a.m. and do not complete their afternoon routes until 6 p.m. Assisting our drivers in student safety is the ACS transportation department. Brian King, our new lead mechanic and transportation director, is assisted by Jack Jones, Mike Simerly and Banner, and Linda King, TIMS operator and data manager. This team works tirelessly to keep our buses on the road and in top operating order. 

ACS operates 31 buses, traveling more than 2,500 miles per day, using more than 250 gallons of fuel and transporting more than 1,000 students. According to NCDPI, the school bus is the safest way for students to travel to and from school. NCDPI Transportation Services Section Chief Derek Graham said, “a bus is ‘built like a tank’ and offers unmatched protection to school bus riders.” In North Carolina, more than 700,000 public school students ride in 14,000 yellow buses each day. NCDPI School Support Division Director Ben Matthews said the benefits of school bus transportation are not limited to safety. As more students ride the school bus, the environmental impacts are significant. “Traffic congestion and pollution can be reduced, not to mention the fuel savings for family cars and budgets,” Matthews said.

Here are some tips to ensure safety for our students:

-Walking to the bus stop …

• Always walk on the sidewalk to the bus stop; never run. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left facing traffic.

• Arrive at the bus stop five minutes early and wait quietly in a safe place well away from the road. Do not run and play while waiting.

-Getting on and off the bus …

• Enter the bus in a line with younger students in front. Hold the handrail while going up and down the stairs.

• Go directly to a seat. Remain seated and face forward during the ride.

-Riding the bus …

• Speak quietly and remain silent when a bus comes to a railroad crossing.

• Never throw things on the bus or out the windows. Keep the aisles clear at all times. Feet should be directly in front of you and book-bags should be kept on your lap.

• Never play with the emergency exits. Do not block the aisle or emergency exits. If there is an emergency, listen to the driver and follow instructions.

• Hands should be kept to yourself at all times. 

-Exiting the bus …

• If items are left on the bus, never return to the bus to get it. The driver may not see you come back causing you danger. Make sure that drawstrings and other loose objects are secure before getting off the bus.

• Respect the “Danger Zone” which surrounds all sides of the bus. The “Danger Zone” is 10-feet wide on all sides of the bus. Always remain 10 steps away from the bus to be out of the “Danger Zone” for driver visibility. 

• Cross the street in front of the bus. Never go behind the bus. If you drop something near the bus, leave it until you can speak with the bus driver. 

• Never speak to strangers at the bus stop or get into the car with a stranger. Always go straight home and tell you parents if a stranger approaches.

The following are reminders to other drivers as a school bus approaches:

• Two-lane road or two-lane road with a center turning lane: For passenger pick up, all traffic from both directions must stop.

• Four-lane road without a median separation: For passenger pick up, all traffic from both directions must stop.

• On a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation: For passenger pick up, only traffic following the bus must stop.

• On a roadway of four lanes or more with a center turning lane: For passenger pick up, only traffic following the bus must stop.

• All motorists in North Carolina must stop for and may not pass a stopped school bus designated for receiving or discharging passengers. (GS 20-217)

I want to personally thank each driver, mechanic and the transportation team for their hard work and commitment to schools. As a community, please join me in thanking this group of great professionals as they serve our students. 

In closing, I am saddened to announce that Mark Garrett, principal of Avery High School, will be leaving Avery County schools to take a position as the assistant superintendent for McDowell County Schools. Even though this is very disappointing news for our system, this is a great honor for Garrett and he will be a tremendous asset to McDowell County. I extend my richest congratulations to him and his family. Garrett has been the principal of Avery High School for more than eight years and has shown a commitment to the students that is unequaled in other high schools. He has been instrumental in raising our cohort graduation rate to 90.1 percent, fourth best in the state. He has helped form one of the most comprehensive dual enrollment programs with Mayland Community College in the nation. He will be greatly missed. Please join me in wishing him the very best. As we go through this transition, I have tremendous faith and confidence in the faculty and staff at Avery High School as well as in the leadership team of Kim Davis and Monet Samuelson. While this will be a time of transition, our commitment to the students will not change as we continue to offer the best education possible and to meet the needs of each student.

Your support of our school system and the students we serve is greatly appreciated.

David Burleson, Superintendent