Over the first nine weeks of the 2020-2021 school year, the absence of Atlanta Public Schools buses on our streets stands as one of the most visible differences of school years past. But even amid a pandemic, our dedicated men and women of our Transportation Department continue to find ways to put our students and schools first as they provide critical mobility needs for our food distribution and supply chain.
When we eventually move into more face-to-face instruction again, we will once again depend on them to transport our children safely to and from schools and to their many after-school activities. When that happens, the bus drivers and monitors will often be the very first adults they see in a school day, thus playing a critical role in setting the tone for their education every school day.
Speak to any of them and you will find them as eager as any teacher or staff member of Atlanta Public Schools to see our students back in school.
No wonder we in APS consider them our educators in motion!
Through their training and love of children, they are not just driving buses. They see themselves as other caring, trusting adults who have real and vested interests in their education and success. They learn their students’ names. They ask them about their days. They find other ways to make an impact beyond the bus.
Therefore, I could not be more thrilled as we celebrated them during our special virtual ceremony today in recognition of National School Bus Safety Week and also of Georgia School Bus Driver Appreciation Day, which was on Monday, October 19.
(We paid special recognition of our bus drivers and monitors earning APS Elite status for 2019-2020. To reach this status, each of them achieved perfect attendance, no accidents, and the completion of a pre-trip inspection every single work day. Our school bus monitors all achieved perfect attendance.)
Nothing is more important than safety whenever we transport students to and from school especially when we eventually return to face-to-face instruction. The theme this year is: Red Lights Mean STOP!” So that means we all need to drive slower and safer, especially around the vehicles carrying our most precious cargo.
Studies show that students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely if they take the school bus instead of traveling by car. Research studies from the Brookins Institute and others found that students who ride the bus have fewer absences and exhibit higher self-esteem and social skills.
That’s why we want to get our 403 buses, 339 bus operators, and 73 bus monitors back on the road as soon as it is safe to resume teaching and learning in person!
And when our buses return to Atlanta’s streets, we need parents, students, teachers, community members, partners, and everyone else to do their part to keep our kids safe. Even though school buses are, by far, the safest way for a child to get to and from school every day, there is always more that can be done to make that ride even safer. Protecting our children as they travel to and from school is just as high a priority as protecting them while at school.
Let’s continue keeping kids safe as we celebrate National School Bus Safety Week!