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Expect slower traffic Monday when buses roll out

Elle Bouffard, right, peeks over the seat back as she and other Oakstead Elementary kindergarten students get a lesson on bus rules and procedures for the upcoming school year.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Elle Bouffard, right, peeks over the seat back as she and other Oakstead Elementary kindergarten students get a lesson on bus rules and procedures for the upcoming school year.

Set your alarm clock a little earlier tonight.

Those big yellow buses start rolling early Monday morning, causing the usual traffic backups as they transport some 36,000 students on the first day of school.

It's a big undertaking — one that comes with the usual concerns of safety for all bus riders.

"Just be careful and watch out. The kids are out again," said Gary Sawyer, the transportation director for Pasco County Schools.

Riders need to do the same.

Many kindergarten students already got a head start on learning bus rules and some of the routine while attending special orientations held over the summer at various elementary schools.

And the district has come up with a new way to address the age-old worry of children getting on the wrong bus or getting off at the wrong bus stop.

The buses at elementary schools will be assigned colors, and riders will be given matching tags for their backpacks that include their name and bus stop. Bus drivers will check the tags as each student gets on and off, and will also take attendance for the first three weeks of school.

Even so, parents of new or young students still might want to familiarize their child with procedures by taking a last-minute dry run of the bus route.

Michele Miller can be reached at miller@sptimes.com or at (727) 869-6251.

Fast facts

Tips for bus riders and parents:

• Know your child's bus number and make sure your child knows it, too.

• Be on time (that means five minutes early).

• If you have to walk to the bus stop where there are no sidewalks, face the traffic and walk single-file on the left-hand shoulder of the road so drivers can see you and you can see them.

• If you're a parent who has time, consider being the adult presence at the bus stop, or work it out with neighbors so an adult is always there.

• Riders should stand away from the road at the bus stop and wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before moving to board the bus.

• Normal classroom behavior is expected when riding the bus; no eating or drinking, keep the aisle clear at all times; nothing should be thrown out the windows.

• Remain seated until the bus stops.

• Follow the directions given by the bus driver for unloading.

• Watch your step and move away from the bus as quickly as possible.

• When crossing the road, walk 10 steps ahead of the bus at the edge of the road.

• Before crossing, stop, look at the driver and wait until you are told to cross.

• Walk quickly across, checking both directions to be sure the roadway is clear.

• Expect delays during the first week of school, as everyone gets used to the new routine.

• Program the school telephone number and the transportation numbers into your cell phone so you can contact the school immediately if there is any problem or an extended wait.

Tips for commuters:

• Slow it down — especially when driving past those early morning bus stops.

• Allot some extra time for your commute.

• Watch out for children — some of whom might be playing and not paying attention — walking or waiting at the side of the road.

• When the bus is flashing those yellow lights, it doesn't mean "step on it. You're supposed to "slow down" and be prepared to stop.

• The red flashing lights and stop sign arm are both telling you loud and clear to "stop" — unless you are driving on a divided highway and the bus is stopping on the other side.

• Be aware of school zones and the speed limit.

• Be patient — especially during the first week of school.

Expect slower traffic Monday when buses roll out 08/22/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 22, 2009 5:31am]

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