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APS Bus Drivers are a Driving Force at North Atlanta

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Homeward Bound: District bus drivers are an integral part of the daily life of students at North Atlanta.

Homeward Bound: District bus drivers are an integral part of the daily life of students at North Atlanta.

Nicole Spektor

Nicole Spektor

Homeward Bound: District bus drivers are an integral part of the daily life of students at North Atlanta.

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The second the final bell rings, the hallways are filled with chatting students leaving classrooms in groups, in pairs, or alone, possibly lost in their music on their headphones. Most of the students head for the buses, tired from yet another long and stressful day at school. Their parents’ busy schedules don’t let them drive them home every day, and several don’t have the luxury of driving themselves, so it is up to the faithful bus drivers to make sure that students get home safely.

School bus drivers are an important part of the school’s day-to-day transportation system. And interviewed drivers say they love their job and the contributions they are able to make in an educational setting. Pam Jennings, driver of bus 15-000, has been a APS bus driver since 2003. “It’s a fun job,” she said. “The best part is that once I drop the kids off, I’m done for the day.”

But being a bus driver isn’t a walk in the park. It comes with responsibility, stress and the constant managerial expectation for driver punctuality. Most of these positions require a love for children or at least a moderate toleration of them. Drivers are in charge of the safety of more than a hundred students twice a day, their passengers who are riding to and from school. It is a dangerous task, especially driving around with a 20,000 pound vehicle in a city which has one of the highest rates of car related-injuries on an annual basis.

For drivers, their day starts early at around 4 or 5 a.m. when they retrieve their designated school buses in a central APS bus yard. Before starting, drivers are required to inspect their vehicles to ensure that everything is working normally. Afterward comes the bulk of our drivers’ jobs, going around to the students’ stops, from elementary to high school, following a very specific schedule. If there are any other outside obstacles, like traffic or a busted tire, a substitute bus must be called in and all the kids unfortunately miss precious amount of school in the morning.

During the day when everyone is in school, drivers are typically free to do whatever they want. This can include running personal errands, driving students on field trips, or working part-time in a different location. At the end of the school day, drivers have to arrive to school on time, before the final bell, and take all the kids home. That would be tough enough in itself if they didn’t have to deal with those unavoidable students who can’t seem to sit down, keep quiet, or not start fights in a moving vehicle. Headphones seem to calm most down but not all. But the job is not without its emotional perks. “I love when the kids come up and hug me,” said Mildred Patterson, driver of bus 606. “And when their parents let me know that I am a great bus driver.”

Though bus drivers seem like individuals in the background, in reality they play a very necessary role in the school’s daily life. So, consider all the paperwork, stress, traffic-related drama, and recurring teenage angst they must endure. Then consider that it never hurts to share a winning smile with your bus driver the next time catch your ride home.

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APS Bus Drivers are a Driving Force at North Atlanta