Prospective bus drivers go through 4 weeks of training

Oil? Check. Air brakes? Check. Signal arm and lights? Check. Emer­gency exit buzzer? Check.


These are just some of the things Richmond County school bus drivers must monitor daily before they can hit the road to take children to and from school.

The list is even more extensive for drivers in training to work for the Richmond County school system - or any Georgia district.

The school system employs mechanics, but drivers must be prepared in case a situation arises while they are on the road.

"Safety first. I look at it like this: I drive, on average, 150 kids every day," said Tammy Stewart, a trainer who has driven for Rich­mond County for more than eight years. "Therefore, I do everything as safe as possible."

It takes about four weeks for trainees to become bus drivers. Cur­rent­ly, Richmond County has 10 in training and was scheduled last week to interview 11 more.

The first 12 hours are spent in the classroom. During a recent session, trainer Judy Weber covered an exhaustive list of laws, regulations and procedures for six trainees at the school system's transportation headquarters on Mike Padgett Highway.

Trainees spend much of the next three weeks at the bus depot on Lumpkin Road getting to know the workings of buses and the tricks on how to drive them in heat, cold, sun, rain, sleet or hail - or even around downed tree limbs after a storm.

"The last group was really good because I took them out driving after that storm hit," Stewart said. "They had to deal with driving around all kinds of obstacles - trees, branches. It may not be ideal, but it's what you're going to face as a bus driver."

Cathy Dunn, a library media specialist assistant at Langford Mid­dle School, answered a call by county Superintendent Frank Roberson last fall for teachers and other district employees to take on bus driving duties for extra pay.

"I saw the need for extra drivers," Dunn said. "I thought to myself, ‘I'm willing to help.'"

She has worked in Georgia schools for more than 20 years and has experience driving church youth groups as far as North Carolina.

"I'll do special trips the school takes - band, choir, FBLA, cheerleaders, sports activities," she said. "They do not have that (regular bus driver), and they definitely need it."

Some of the trainees in the recent classroom session have experience.

Rebecca Brown was a Colum­bia County school bus driver for seven years and worked for Augusta Public Transit until June. She drove buses for Richmond Coun­ty schools for eight years before switching to Columbia County.

"I have so much fun with (students)," Brown said. "People have a tendency to look at kids on the bus and think they're all bad. But they're not. They're just kids."



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