Creativity ranks right up there with Love as one of my most desired feelings. I enjoy art, music, storytelling, drama and playful fun. Our teachers represent the epitome of all my favorite things. Upon my word, when I am around the creative professional and service staff of Upshur County Schools, I have come to expect being surprised by joy as I am performing my oversight duties as an elected member of the Upshur County Schools Board of Education. Now, I do declare, meeting Buster the Bus at a recent regular meeting of the BOE totally blew me away. Growing up in the hills and hollows of West Virginia, I would hear such a fancy contraption called “the cat’s pajamas!”
Buster the Bus deserves to be shared widely—thus this community column. Let me tell you, our students are being creatively taught bus safety! After the presentation at the BOE meeting, I asked for an opportunity to go to the Bus Garage to introduce Buster to a high school journalist student, Allia Shaver. I wanted her to write about this yellow pint-size bus with big eyes and plenty of lessons learned. She fell hard for this character who teaches bus safety to our seven elementary schools four times each year.
In her words, Allia says: “Buster is a real hero, a legend! He helps keep students safe when riding the bus. He teaches bus safety. He teaches young students how important the role of the bus driver is in keeping them safe. Anyone who keeps students safe is a hero to me. Buster also miraculously survived a fire that occurred when he was in storage in a Fairmont warehouse. Definitely a hero! And he is so cute! Yes, I am now a fan of Buster the Bus.”
Besides teaching our students with Buster the Bus, our Upshur County Schools Transportation Director Jodie Akers keeps teaching our vehicle drivers. At our public BOE meeting, she highlighted new safety equipment on our buses, including a flashing stop sign that lights up. The yellow lights and headlights “wig wag” and the “school bus” sign on top of the bus also lights up to warn drivers that students are about to load or unload from the bus. She notes concern because of close calls by drivers not respecting the gravity of West Virginia State Law designed to protect our students.
Jodie Akers gives us a flier which she uses to spread the message of bus safety. It details school bus laws from West Virginia Code, violations of which could result in legal consequences, including having a driver’s license suspended for 60 days, a fine of up to $1,000 or confinement to jail of not more than six months for a first offense.
Not content to just do an adequate job for our students through extraordinary grant writing, Transportation Director Akers purchased Buster the Bus to create a memorable learning experience for our students. Bus driver Robbie Starkey demonstrated to our BOE. He is the principal instructor taking Buster the Bus around to capture the hearts and minds of our students.
In our mountain state, students spend extended time on our buses. Journalism student Allia Shaver recalls: “I remember my first bus ride on a big yellow school bus for our kindergarten class field trip. Five years old and I had been waiting to ride a bus for years, or at least for as long as I could remember. Nervous, but also excited, I sang all the words to ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round’ as I prepared with my class for the bus trip. Several students in my class were like me in that they had never ridden a school bus. They seemed fearful. I bravely climbed the huge stairs and then climbed into a seat with an older student / seat buddy who was to help keep me safe on our trip. My feet could not reach the floor and all I could see was the back of the seat in front of me. Intimidating! Fear of the unknown…if I had met Buster before my first school bus trip, confidence instead of fear—still with singing.”
Bus safety extends further than our Upshur County Schools Transportation Department. “The safety of our children is our utmost priority,” Buckhannon City Police Chief Gregory said. “We will continue this partnership to make sure our children are safe.”
Our bus transportation system is the largest and most complex in our county. Ultimate responsibility rests with our Superintendent of Upshur County Schools, Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus, who said getting the community behind the safety effort is key.
“I want to thank Akers and the folks in our transportation department for being innovative,” Stankus said. “They are always looking for ways to make our children safer and getting the entire community in on this effort is key. All of us want to keep our children safe, so we need to educate the public. These bright lights will really help.”
And I know what else will help! Buster the Bus, so creative, will continue to make educational presentations both for our students and our young-at-heart parents and grandparents. After all, when it comes to safety, we are all in this together.