From the moment that Boulder Valley School District bus drivers arrive at work, until the end of their day – safety is the focus.
“The safe transportation of students to and from home and school – that is our mission,” said BVSD Interim Transportation Director Tony Skala. “We take safety extremely seriously and we go the extra mile to make sure that all students are safe.”
It begins long before drivers get behind the wheel with students. When drivers are hired, they spend weeks in intensive training with BVSD Transportation department staff. In addition to earning their Colorado commercial driver's license (CDL), they gain a solid understanding of how to drive a school bus safely, regardless of the conditions.
Those that drive in the mountains receive additional training, so that they are prepared to handle the difficult driving conditions they may face.
Training continues throughout the driver’s career. Twice a year, Transportation offers training sessions, providing drivers with an opportunity to sharpen up their skills and learn about any updates. Additionally, from time-to-time outside agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security offer specialized classes like the recent anti-terrorism training.
Evaluating bus stops
BVSD routing experts spend a lot of time evaluating possible bus stops to ensure they are as safe as possible.
“We look at all of the situations and parent requests,” Skala said. “If there is a genuine safety concern we can move a stop or we can make the stop safer, by implementing a different process as the bus approaches the location.”
BVSD is also in constant communication with our municipal partners to consider whether additional signage, road striping or other measures would be beneficial.
Educational opportunities for students and drivers
At the beginning of every school year, BVSD Transportation employees visit schools to share safety tips with students. By helping them understand the best way to safely approach and wait at bus stops, students are far safer on a daily basis.
Additionally, BVSD also works to remind drivers to be cautious and to follow laws designed to protect students – including stopping anytime a bus has activated its red lights and/or stop arm.
Safety is part of the daily regimen
Before taking a bus out on the road, drivers begin by checking their bus to ensure that everything from the mechanics to the safety features are working perfectly.
On snowy mornings the routine starts even earlier, so they can clear all the snow off the bus and ensure the chain system is working properly.
Drivers are expected to follow all the rules of the road and drive courteously. Typically our experienced and well-trained drivers exceed our expectations, but if they don’t, we have set up a website for members of the public to report concerns.
At the end of every route, drivers to conduct a post-trip check to ensure everything remains in working order and the bus is clear of students.
New procedures to protect preschool riders
While BVSD Transportation has long had these safety procedures in place, a recent incident has prompted the department to redouble its efforts and add some additional procedures to protect our youngest riders.
“Sometimes an event will occur within our department that identifies a weakness in how we are doing something,” Skala said. “We immediately respond by coming up with a solution to correct that and to fill that gap.”
Beginning this semester:
Busses with preschool students will have a clear hand-off of students. Preschool teachers will ask about any students on their roster that haven’t arrived on the bus.
All elementary schools will have morning and afternoon absence alerts to ensure that parents are notified if a student hasn’t arrived for school.
At the end of each run an additional person will walk each bus to verify it is clear and that an “All Clear" sign has been placed at the back of the bus.
A terminal supervisor will walk the parking lot grounds at the end of each run to ensure each bus has the “All Clear” sign visible.
“We are always looking at technology to help us improve our processes too,” Skala added. “We are currently looking at a system that would ensure that every bus is fully checked for students, every time.”
Skala says his team remains committed to continuous improvement, especially when it can ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students.