This was the case at a recent meeting of the Paulding County Board of Education during a presentation by transportation department trainers in conjunction with Bus Safety Week in late October.
The featured guest at the meeting was “Buster the Bus” and his handlers Lorri Graham and Bonnie Bowen, both bus drivers and trainers for the Paulding County School District.
The audience, school board members and staff were asked to “wake up” Buster in the manner that students use when he visits classrooms by singing “Wheels on the Bus.”
“We celebrate and appreciate bus drivers and the education of our students about bus safety,” said Brian Otott, associate superintendent. “Our job is to prevent accidents from happening.”
“The key word we like to leave with the kids is safety,” stressed Graham. “We go through the loading and unloading process with students because that is the most important safety aspect — and the most dangerous.”
The Paulding County School District transports 18,000 students along 500 routes and 13,000 miles annually. Total system enrollment is about 28,000.
Buster the Bus, who speaks and interacts with the students, is the object of much affection from the younger students he visits.
“We do the presentation mainly for kindergarten and first-graders,” said Graham, “and we are available for any school who wants us to visit.
“Buster gets hugs and kisses from the students, who think of him as a real person. He’s used to getting lots of affection. The kids really identify with him.”
Buster the Bus is also available to visit pre-kindergarten programs to help prepare students for when they attend regular school classes, Graham said.
Buster’s favorite thing, explained Graham during the presentation at the school board meeting, is to “get them to and from school safely.”
When this happens, Buster will break out into a “happy dance,” complete with all of his miniature bus features all lit up and active.
“He goes round and round and all of his lights come on,” said Graham. “It is all done about safety.”
Buster the Bus has been part of the school district’s transportation program for seven years, said lead trainer Sadie Locklear, who has worked with the transportation program for the last 40 years. She became a trainer in 1985.
She considers the Buster the Bus safety program very worthwhile in teaching young children bus safety.
“It is a great resource for the county to have,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of areas that have this program.”
Locklear relayed a story about doing a presentation at the First Baptist Church kindergarten program, where Buster and a “big bus” visited the children.
“One of the children shouted, ‘Oh look, oh look — it’s Buster’s mother!’,” she explained.
“Buster is very proud of his mommy bus,” laughed Graham.
To arrange a bus safety education program from Buster the Bus, call Sadie Locklear at (770) 443-8003, ext. 10195.