ST. MARYS — A local school district is joining others throughout the nation in reminding students and residents about the importance of school bus safety.
The St. Marys City School District is participating in National School Bus Safety Week beginning Monday. This year’s theme, “Be aware — know the danger zone,” stresses the importance of students being cautious any time they must cross the street.
“Ensuring the safety of students as they enter and exit the school bus is crucial,” Transportation Supervisor Dan Grothause said. “We are training our bus drivers to be cautious, but we need help from motorists to make sure they watch for school buses stopped to load and unload children. No issue is so urgent that motorists cannot wait for a school bus.”
St. Marys bus drivers will be stressing to younger students the importance of safety during activities and drills this week.
“Tuesday and Thursday we are doing bus evacuation drills,” Grothause said.
First up is St. Marys Primary School, who will be practicing drills on Tuesday, with St. Marys Intermediate School practicing on Thursday.
“The drivers will go through and review with the students on how the emergency windows work and how the roof latches work,” Grothause said. “They will then do the drills — there are three. They can either all go out the back door of the bus, all go out the front door or do what’s called a split drill, where half the students go out the front and half go out the back.”
Because of time constraints, Grothause noted the high school and middle school students will practice their drills later in the year when the younger students are out of school for teacher conferences.
“Because this is bus safety week, we want to focus on the younger kids,” he said. “This way, we can get everybody in the classrooms like we’re supposed to without adjusting the schedule as much as possible.”
When the bus drivers do the drills, Grothause noted he will be on site observing. In the past, the fire department has been present, as well.
“The fire department has come in the past,” he said. “October is fire safety month, and they do a lot of activities in October.”
He noted bus safety week focuses more on the educational standpoint.
“It’s amazing what the kids will remember what they have to do in an emergency,” Grothause said.
He noted the Ohio State Highway Patrol will also be out for National School Bus Safety Week.
“Throughout the week, the state highway patrol is going to do an increased presence throughout the state — they may pick up a bus and follow it or an inspector may actually ride along,” he said. “If we have a specific area where there are lot of people who are not stopping for the red lights, they may have a trooper in the area to slow people down or catch violators.”
Wednesday, Grothause noted, will be the day they will be monitoring red light violators.
“We will be counting the number of people running the red lights — the red lights on the bus when the bus is unloading or picking up kids,” he said.
“This is the second time this year we’ve been asked to do that. We’re required to turn in the count over to law enforcement, and they will make the determination whether it was a violation or not. Our local people are great at helping.”
Grothause stressed the students remembering their safety tips and drivers be on the lookout.
“The worst thing when you’re a bus driver is when a kid crosses the street and someone is speeding down the street and doesn’t stop,” he said. “That’s why students need to be in eye contact with the driver and follow their signals.”
Some of those tips include the students being at least 10 steps away from the bus “danger zone” and following the bus driver’s directions.
“If something blows away, never go after it,” Grothause added. “Let the driver know. A piece of paper can be replaced, a child can’t.”