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From the Desk of ACS Supt. David Burleson: Challenges of Winter Weather and Love The Bus Program

By Avery County Schools Supt. David Burleson

Feb. 2, 2015. Winter weather always creates challenges and changes for our schools. As we meet those challenges and work with alterations, we express our sincere appreciation to everyone for their patience and support as we strive to make decisions that promote safety. To help get feedback from as many people as possible a survey has been created on options for making up time missed. We are asking individuals in our community to please take a couple of minutes to complete this survey located on the Avery County Schools’ webpage, www.averyschools.net. The survey asks for your opinions on the possible options we have to make up instructional time.

Here is where we are with days missed due to inclement weather.

  • Eight days have been missed
  • 20.5 hours missed for Delays/Early Dismissals
  • One day has been made up using Jan. 19
  • The extended time has allowed us to not make up five days.
  • Thursday, June 4 and Friday, June 5 are now school days instead of workdays, which makes up the remaining two days.

At this time, all the days we have missed have been made up.  If we continue the additional 20 minutes, we could have approximately three more days that can be used.  If we could possibly be fortunate enough to only miss one more day of instructional time, we could add June 4 and June 5 back into the calendar as workdays and end the school year on June 3. (Please know this is very wishful thinking with well over a month of winter to go.)

If we miss more than 3 days, then the question is do we start using Spring break or extend the school year into the second week of June.

During the winter months when roads become hazardous due to snow and ice, our goal is to transport students to and from school in the safest manner possible. We realize that our buses carry your most treasured possession and we commit to offer the best and safest travel possible. Our school bus drivers are well trained, dedicated and committed to your child’s safety. Our bus drivers rise as early as 5:30 a.m. each morning and do not complete their afternoon routes until 6 p.m.  We believe that our bus drivers are a vital link to the education system in Avery County serving as a role model each day.

To honor bus drivers, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) has designated the month of February as “Love the Bus” month to express our sincere appreciation to our drivers. According to the American School Bus Council (ASBC) national school buses carry approximately 26 million children safely to and from schools each day. Avery County Schools travels 2,303 miles daily, and transports 1,120 students served by 30 buses and 30 drivers. Transporting students involves teamwork and effort as we strife for efficiency and safety.

In North Carolina, over 700,000 public school students ride in 14,000 yellow buses each day. NCDPI School Support Division Director Ben Matthews said the benefits of school bus transportation are not limited to safety. As more students take the school bus to school, the environmental impacts are significant. “Traffic congestion and pollution can be reduced around schools, not to mention the fuel savings for family cars. In this economy, lots of families are looking for ways to trim their fuel budgets,” Matthews said. Here are some more facts about school buses and some safety tips:

Fact Sheet: School Bus Safety

The National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Transportation and other authorities agree that school buses are the safest form of transportation for getting children to and from school.

Some 480,000 school buses carry 26 million children — more than half of America’s schoolchildren.

Students are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends. Students are much safer riding the bus than being driven by a parent, and are about 20 times more likely to arrive to school alive if they take the bus than if a parent drives them.

School buses decrease our dependence on foreign oil through an annual savings of 2.3 billion gallons of fuel.

A 20-mile round-trip school commute saves an approximate $420 annually for each student who rides the bus and an approximate $10.9 billion nationwide.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than do passenger cars and light trucks.  Because of these differences, the crash forces experienced by occupants of buses are much less than that experienced by occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or vans.

Safety features including the color and size of school buses, height, reinforced sides, flashing red lights, cross view mirrors, and crossing and stop sign arms ensure children are protected and secure on and off the bus.

School bus drivers are highly trained professionals in student behavior management, loading and unloading, security and emergency medical procedures.

Drivers participate in pre-employment and random drug/alcohol testing, as well as frequent driving record checks, and submit to background checks and periodic medical exams to keep their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a School Bus Endorsement.

The school bus industry operates by a set of safety, security, health and driver qualification guidelines that meet, and in some cases exceed, federal and state laws, and ensure that school buses are the safest mode of transportation for our nation’s schoolchildren.

Safety tips for students:

Be alert to traffic. Check traffic both ways before existing the bus.

Make eye contact with the bus driver; wait for his/her signal before crossing the street.

Walk in front of the bus; never walk behind the bus to cross the street.

While waiting for the bus, stay in a safe place away from the street.

Before leaving the sidewalk, look for the flashing red lights.

Never go near or under the bus to retrieve something you’ve dropped.

Safety tips for parents:

Review the safety tips with your child regularly.

Get to know the parents of other riders as well as student riders with your child.

Team up with other parents to get involved and monitor bus stops and bus routes. Voice concerns immediately to your school district.

Attend “back to school” nights and tour your child’s school bus.

Get to know your school’s transportation coordinator and your child’s bus driver.

Keep phone numbers handy in case the bus is delayed or in the event of an emergency.

Please join me in the campaign to thank our drivers and transportation department for their dedication and diligent work. For ways to participate, visit “Love Your Bus” web site at www.LoveTheBus.com. Valentine’s Day, February 14, as been designate as “Love Your Bus Day”. Educators also may visit www.LoveTheBus.com to download an educator’s toolkit.

On behalf of Avery County Schools, “Thank you, Bus Drivers, Brian King-Director of ACS Transportation, Linda King-Transportation Information Management Specialist and our Transportation Mechanics for ensuring that our students are safe and cared for as they travel on our buses. We truly appreciate you!”


ACS Supt. David Burleson