AJUSD celebrated National School Bus Safety Week Oct. 19-23

From left are: Transportation Director Vicky Drennan holds (top) District 1st place poster by Megan Gossmann, 5th grade DVES; and (bottom) District 2nd place poster by Lola Wyatt, 4th grade DVES. Transportation Supervisor Carolyn Foster holds (top) poster by Jessika Jurrens-Forney, 3rd grade DVES, submitted to national contest; and (bottom) District 3rd place poster by Jessica Evans, 10th grade AJHS. Special Needs Bus Aide Cristal Martinez holds (top) poster by Karissa Jurrens-Forney, 4th grade DVES, submitted to national contest; and (bottom) poster by Kayli Jurrens-Forney, 5th grade DVES, submitted to national contest.

From left are: Transportation Director Vicky Drennan holds (top) District 1st place poster by Megan Gossmann, 5th grade DVES; and (bottom) District 2nd place poster by Lola Wyatt, 4th grade DVES.
Transportation Supervisor Carolyn Foster holds (top) poster by Jessika Jurrens-Forney, 3rd grade DVES, submitted to national contest; and (bottom) District 3rd place poster by Jessica Evans, 10th grade AJHS. Special Needs Bus Aide Cristal Martinez holds (top) poster by Karissa Jurrens-Forney, 4th grade DVES, submitted to national contest; and (bottom) poster by Kayli Jurrens-Forney, 5th grade DVES, submitted to national contest. (Courtesy of Apache Junction School District)

National School Bus Safety Week rolled through town Oct. 19 through Oct. 23, and the Apache Junction Unified School District used the time to raise awareness of how bus rules help keep everyone safe.

“School bus drivers are constantly multitasking: keeping one eye on the road, and the other on the kids, while listening to dispatch on the radio for critical information,” Carolyn Foster said, who was a bus driver for 10 years before recently being promoted to transportation supervisor. AJUSD elementary and junior high schools displayed safety week posters and talked about bus safety during announcements.

In preparation for the week, AJUSD bus drivers coordinated a poster contest for the students who ride on their buses. Four posters, created by students in grades K-8, were submitted to the national contest, sponsored by the National Association for Pupil Transportation.

“Our 60-plus drivers voted to select the three top district winners and they all received prizes,” said transportation director Vicky Drennan, “but there were additional rules for the national contest and only the first place district winner met all of those criteria. We then selected three additional qualifying posters to submit to the national contest.” The national winner’s poster will be featured in the marketing campaign for next year’s National School Bus Safety Week, with the 2016-17 theme, “Bully Free Zone.”

“We hope to expand our participation next year,” continued Ms. Drennan. “It’s a fun way for parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other interested parties – to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety.”
Ms. Drennan, although new to the director’s position, has worked in school transportation for nearly 20 years.

“It is very important to promote good communication with all the staff and administrators at all the schools. Safety does not begin on the buses. For the drivers, it begins with the intensive training they receive; and for the students, it actually begins when parents and teachers are in a calm environment with their kiddos and are able to spend a few minutes with them discussing the rules of the bus, why it is so important to follow them, and how rules help keep everyone safe. It is our desire to work with our drivers and with school personnel to create the best and safest ride to and from school for our students as possible.” Ms. Drennan said.

“One more thing that is really important to note,” Ms. Foster said, “is that school buses are the safest form of ground transportation there is. Typically where accidents happen is outside of the bus. For that reason two things are vitally important: Students need to be very aware of the ‘Danger Zones’ around the bus, which is the space all around the school bus. It goes out 10 feet and when students are anywhere in the ‘Danger Zone,’ the driver cannot see them. The other thing that we especially need the public to be aware of is our red flashing lights when we are at a bus stop loading or unloading students. It is against the law for a driver to run through our ‘reds,’ yet many people don’t pay attention to them at all, especially on busy four-lane roads such as Broadway. We activate our red lights so that all traffic will stop so our children can load, unload, and cross the street safely. When drivers pay attention and stop, it keeps everyone safe.”

Editor’s note: Dana Hawman is the public information officer for Apache Junction Schools District

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