Some 36,000 students will take the bus to and from Pasco County schools this year, and like his predecessor, Gary Sawyer is hoping for safe passage for each and every one of them. Sawyer, who replaces Mike Park as the director of transportation for Pasco schools, will do his part — but he's also relying on students, parents and commuters to help him out.
That means being aware of safety procedures both on the bus and on the road.
Tips for parents and students:
• Parents should review safety rules with their child. Check them out in the student code of conduct online at communications.pasco.k12.fl.us/guide/guide.html.
• If your child is unfamiliar with the bus route, drive it with him prior to the first day of school. Point out landmarks that will make him aware of his upcoming bus stop.
• Put a name tag on your young child — especially first-time bus riders — with his name, bus number and bus stop.
• Be at the bus stop at least five minutes early and stand a safe distance from the road.
• Parents should consider providing an adult presence at the bus stop, as the school does not take responsibility for safety until students have boarded the bus.
• Make a note of your child's bus number and keep handy the district's transportation numbers: (727) 774-0400 in west Pasco; (813) 794-0400 in central Pasco; and (352) 524-0400 in east Pasco. Program the number into your cell phone so you can call right away if there's a problem or delay.
• If your child is a bus rider, but you're planning on driving him to school that first day, plan on picking him up, too.
• Better yet, let your child ride the bus that first day to avoid confusion on the second day of school. That way your child will be more familiar with the bus, the driver and the kids she is riding with. If you feel the need, follow the bus to school, and meet your child there.
• Make sure your child knows to NOT 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.
• Be patient in the afternoons: Buses will probably run a little late — especially the first week as the schools try to make sure the right kids get on the right buses.
• Make sure your child's emergency contact numbers are current in case the school or transportation department needs to contact you.
Tips for commuters:
• Give yourself some extra time by leaving a little early once school starts.
• Be aware of children waiting at bus stops along the side of the road. Watch for children who might be crossing the road or darting out.
• Those flashing yellow lights on the bus are telling you the bus is going to stop. Unless you're driving on a divided highway, those red flashing lights and stop sign arm mean you must stop.
• Be aware of school zones and the speed limit.
Note: School bus stop information will be listed online at trans.pasco.k12.fl.us or available at the schools on orientation days.
There are always a few kinks to work out during the first few weeks of school, so transportation chief Gary Sawyer is asking folks to show a little patience.
"There's the possibility that we might change the (bus) stop if it isn't safe or we get complaints from homeowners," Sawyer said. "We might need to adjust loads if there are more riders than expected," especially if rising fuel costs prompt more families to quit driving the kids to school.
Bottom line, Sawyer said, "We're looking for a safe school year."