Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On the job: Jacqueline E. Dunbar, School bus driver, AA Transportation, Shrewsbury

Monday, June 22, 2009
Why are school buses yellow?
“Hopefully, so that people driving around can see us.”
It seems like fewer children are taking the bus now than when we were young. Would you agree?
“Shrewsbury is more populated now, so I think more students are taking the bus. Nowadays we drop kids off door to door because there isn’t a sidewalk or proper walkway for the child to get to the bus stop safely. A lot of streets in Shrewsbury are very narrow and don’t have sidewalks.”
Once in a while you read a story in the paper about a child who didn’t get off the bus — the driver didn’t spot-check when they got back to base and so the child sits on the bus all day. Do drivers check the bus front to back when they finish a run?
“Without a doubt. After every single run, not just when you get back to base, you check your bus for students.”
What is your favorite part of the job?
“The kids, especially the little ones. They’re so adorable. They lose their teeth at that age and they get so excited and they’re showing everybody. Some are almost toothless, smiling big. They ask me a lot of questions like, ‘What’s that light for?’ They’re cute.”
I would have guessed that your favorite part of the job is when they cancel school.
“I watch the news the night before and I’m like a kid watching to see if school is closed. Who else wakes up in the morning to see if they have to go to work or not? It’s funny, my mom laughs. But then it’s like: Ugh, an extra day in the summer.”
What is your least favorite part of the job?
“Driving in the snow.”
Don’t those buses have good traction?
“No. People think that because they’re so big and heavy that they do well, but they don’t. I think years ago they used to put chains on the wheels, but they’re not four-wheel drive. They have some traction, but you can get stuck in very simple situations, like steep hills. There are a lot of steep hills in Shrewsbury.”
What grades do you pick up and drop off?
“K through 12. There are numerous runs per day. I get up at 4:30 every morning. The first group are the high school kids, which I begin picking up at 6:36 a.m. I drop them off at the high school at 7:05. At 7:20 I pick up the middle school kids and drop them off at 8. I then pick up the kids in Grades 1 to 4 at 8:15, and drop them off at the elementary school at 8:40. I then go back to base and then I pick up the kindergartners at school at 11:30.”
There is a new no-idling law in Massachusetts, which prevents school buses from running their engines in front of school. What rules do you have to follow?
“If we are loading or unloading children and we are sitting in front of the building for more than 5 minutes, then the engine has to be off.”
What about the dead of winter?
“Same thing. Yeah, it’s cold, especially this past winter.”
How many verses to “The Wheels on the Bus” do you know?
“The little ones learn it at school, then they sing it on the bus. Naturally they want me to sing along with them.”
Compiled by correspondent Richard Price.

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