Most people would cringe at the thought of getting up early and manoeuvring a giant vehicle full of kids off to school and home everyday but Lori Cooley and Colleen Adcock look forward to it.
“This isn’t a job,” says Adcock as she settles in after her route as a bus driver at Red Deer Catholic Transportation department on Friday. “I love the kids and the uniqueness of the job. No day is ever the same.”
She has been a school bus driver on the same route for 17 years and has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Neither Adcock nor Cooley feel the need for huge recognition.
“We’ve been doing this a long time because we love it,” says Cooley who has been a bus driver herself for 23 years, switching up routes from time to time. “I have grandkids now, I want to drive them. We’re the first person the students see when they start their day and then we’re there when they end their day. It makes you feel good to know you’re providing a service and that they’re excited to see us.”
Adcock added that it’s not just the five and six year olds that are excited to see their bus driver out and about in between runs.
“I just saw one of my students, a 16-year-old boy the other day getting groceries, and he was with his dad and he came over. He was proud to talk to me. That’s cool!”
With just over 100 drivers, the Red Deer Catholic Transportation Department provides service to the Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, private events and field trips.
Over the span of their careers the drives have seen changes within the school transporation system.
Safety and technology has changed over the years. Now the buses have cameras to catch people making unsafe passes or any accidents. The buses also have radios that allow drivers to receive important notices about any issues at he schools such as lock-downs or different drop off and pick up points.
“Twenty years ago it was unheard of to have a lock down at a school,” says Cooley. “But now there’s at least one a year.”
Most of the times it’s drills and it’s all part of the ongoing training the drivers go through. School bus drivers hold an S-class license and they must renew it every three years, during that time there are skill building and training scenarios, usually during professional development days.
They also attend schools and community events like Kindergarten Here I Come, which is a program though Family Services of Central Alberta that prepares first-time students heading into kindergarten.
“You want it to be a positive response for the child,” says Cooley.
She shared a story that stuck out in her mind of a first-time kindergarten student who got mixed up and ended up on the wrong bus the first morning.
Even though it happened almost 20 years ago, she says since then it’s been a main goal of hers to make sure her students and the parents educate each other and maintain positive relationships.
Both drivers encourage parents to bring their kids out to school bus events because even if they won’t be taking the bus regularly to school they probably will during the school year on field trips.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, the drivers also get to take part in occasional field trips.
Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools is inviting Red Deerians to show their appreciation for school bus drivers on May 1 as part of School Bus Driver Appreciation Day.
Honk and wave if you see a school bus on the road on Monday.