The start of school Monday will bring some 380 buses to Pasco roads twice a day, transporting more than 36,000 kids to and from school. And that's not counting the students who are walking or riding their bikes, or catching rides with parents.
All of that extra traffic means patience and a keen sense of alertness should be top priorities for parents, kids and everyone else sharing the road.
"Safety has got to be first," said Gary Sawyer, transportation director of Pasco County schools. "There's going to be kids at bus stops, kids crossing the road. We've all got to be very aware that kids are going to be out there."
Bus drivers completed dry-runs on Friday to familiarize themselves with the routes and bus stops.
Central Pasco commuters will find a smoother ride on U.S. 41, now that road construction has finished near Land O'Lakes High School. Even so, drivers should be aware that it could be slow-going in the morning and afternoon — especially around school entrances.
So take your time, breathe and simply go with the flow.
• Give yourself some extra time by leaving a little early this week. (Or leave a little later to avoid rush hour.)
• Be aware of children waiting at bus stops along the side of the road, and those walking or riding their bikes to school.
• Those flashing yellow lights on the bus mean slow down — not speed up.
• Flashing red lights and that big red STOP sign that opens out on the side of the bus mean stop. Vehicles may not pass until the lights and signals are turned off.
Tips for parents and students:
• Be at the bus stop at least five minutes early, stand a safe distance from the road and avoid rough play. Parents should consider providing an adult presence/supervision at the stop.
• Put a name tag (often provided by the school) on your young child, especially first-time bus riders. List his or her name, teacher's name, bus number and bus stop.
• If children must cross the road before getting on the bus or after getting off, wait until the driver signals that it is okay to cross.
• Parents should review safety rules with their child. Go to: www.pasco.k12.fl.us/transportation.
• Make a note of your child's bus number and keep handy the district's transportation numbers: (727) 774-0400 in west Pasco; (352) 524-0400 in east Pasco; and (813) 794-0400 in central Pasco. Better yet, program the number into your cell phone so you can call right away if there's a problem or delay.
• Be aware that buses will probably run late during the first week as school employees try to make sure the right kids get on the right buses.
• If your child is a bus rider, but you are planning on accompanying them to school for the first day, put him or her on the bus and meet them at school. This helps avoid confusion for your child, who will better understand the typical routine. If you choose to drive your child to school on the first day, even though they will typically be a bus rider, plan on picking them up that day, too.
• Make sure your child knows NOT to get off the bus if they are unsure of their stop or if a new friend invites them home. Students who are unsure of their stop should alert the bus driver.
• Map out the route ahead of time so your child knows the way.
• Make sure your child knows to cross streets where there is a crossing guard.
• Consider starting a walking group with other children and an adult.
• Make sure your child wears a helmet.
• Review the rules of the road (including stop signs and traffic signals) with your child as well as appropriate hand signals for turning.
• Be aware of car loop procedures and the proper lanes to use.
• Display your "car tag" prominently.
• Drop your child no earlier than the designated time slot to assure there is adult supervision on campus.