School begins in Randolph County Monday, and as students venture to the bus stop, parents can be assured the drivers transporting youngsters are well-trained to safely deliver their children to school.
Drivers are required to have many hours of training and continuing education, and they showed their skills Thursday at Elkins High School during the annual Randolph County bus rodeo.
Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Terry George ran through the stations with bus operator Alan Weiford.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Randolph County Schools bus driver Jerry Hull runs through the stations Thursday at the county bus rodeo in the Elkins High School parking lot. Drivers use the exercise to renew student safety protocols before the start of school Monday.
"I think this is a tremendous training prior to the opening of school Monday," George said. "The operators are sharpening their skills, and this is a great exercise. This is also a great exercise in teambuilding. It also affords the operators a great exercise in student safety."
Randy Long, Randolph County transportation director, said bus operators have to make 1,000 critical decisions throughout the day.
"The bus rodeo gives the operators time to refresh their skills, prepare and get ready for the start of school," Long said. "Some of our drivers work up to seven hours a day, and we transport more than 2,500 students each day for a total of 5,700 miles. That adds up to 1.25 million miles a year."
Long said the training to be a bus operator includes 12 hours of rural training, 12 hours of city training, 40 classroom hours and online testing. He said all operators also are certified in first aid and CPR for infants to adults. Yearly, the staff also completes 18 hours of continuing education.
"The operators are tested for drugs before and after training and also quarterly at random," Long said. "They also must have a CDL license, and a class B passenger and student endorsement."
Long said the school system has 49 drivers with 15 substitutes.
The bus rodeo on Thursday included situations such as backing up without crossing a line, left turns, diminishing clearance, pretrip check and railroad stop. Drivers are scored at each station and prizes are awarded to the top three high scores.
This year's first place winner at the bus rodeo was Ralph Vandevender, who won $100 from Mike Ross Inc.; second place went to Phil Isner, who won $75 from Bill's Auto Repair; and the third place winner was Jessie Shreve, who won $50 from Earthworks Construction. Following the rodeo, bus operators gathered for a picnic lunch.
Long said the county recently purchased five new buses.
"Each of these are bio diesel and meet the EPA standards," Long said. "The diesel exhaust fluid reduces emission and is more clean-burning. Our buses average seven miles per gallon in the city and nine in the country."
Long also reminds folks to use caution.
"School begins on Monday, and our buses will be out," Long said. "Students will be waiting along the roads waiting for the buses and also getting off the buses. Please be safe and watch out for students entering and exiting the buses.
"It is state law that cars stop both ways when students are entering or exiting the bus. Our buses are equipped with some of the highest quality video cameras. When a car passes a bus, the driver can access the license plate and can turn the person over to magistrate court."
Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at email@example.com.