TERRE HAUTE —
About 170 big yellow school buses will be traveling the roads of Vigo County beginning this morning as students and teachers embark on the first day of the 2012-13 school year.
Experience tells Franklin Fennell that delays will be inevitable not only today, but for the next week or so, as more than 360 bus routes are tweaked to add new students and adjusted to balance student passenger loads.
“It will be an adventure,” said Fennell, director of facilities, support and transportation for the Vigo County School Corp.
On Monday afternoon, Fennell and staff were making adjustments to add new students and to delete those who have moved.
“Our info changes every minute of every day at this point,” he said. “New kids moved in, and we just find out that someone’s moved out. It’s difficult to provide an accurate count now.”
Close to 11,000 students in the countywide school district will be transported to school during the course of 90 minutes — starting at 6:30 a.m. and continuing through 8 a.m.
At least, that’s what is supposed to happen, Fennell said.
“That won’t happen on the first day,” he said of anticipated slow-downs. “There will be parents wanting to take pictures of the kids for the first day of school. Then there’s the kids who gets sick from anxiety and throw up on the bus.”
Fennell does want parents to know that if they haven’t enrolled their child at a new address, then the bus does not know to stop. But, the bus drivers are instructed to pick up any child waiting to go to school. The details of adding or adjusting the routes will be worked out between the transportation department, school and parents in coming days.
“We try to track down parents and let them know we will adjust the route,” Fennell said.
He does have some advice for parents, students and other motorists to start the school year.
Parents should encourge their child to get on the bus and sit down promptly so the bus can get under way.
“We know they’re excited and want to speak to their friends, but if they’re gonna speak, they should whisper or talk in low voices. The bus driver needs to pay attention. Don’t be a distraction,” he said.
Parents should also encourage their students not to walk toward a school bus until the bus is stopped and the stop arm is out to warn traffic of the stop.
And students should be at their bus stop waiting for the bus, and not expect the bus to wait for them to come out of their homes.
Motorists are encouraged to plan for extra time getting to work in the coming weeks as the buses are added into the morning traffic.
“Motorists need to know that bus routes change each year, so if they anticipate a bus stopping or not, that may not be the same now as it was last year,” Fennell warned.
He also noted that on four-lane highways, such as U.S. 40 in eastern Vigo County, state law requires all four lanes of traffic to stop for the school bus — even though Vigo buses usually load and unload students only from the right side of the bus nearest the curb.
There could be a student living across the highway who does not know bus procedure who darts across the traffic, Fennell explained, so motorists should always be aware that a child could run into the road at a bus stop.
Any parent who wants to contact the school corporation about a transportation issue can call (812) 462-4336.
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