For many students, back to school means getting ready to ride the bus, and this year, the Director of Transportation for the Hanover School Division says, ridership is up.
“I think we're just over 5,700 kids right now, that are registered for busing. So, it's a significant number of students to transport and lots of parents to contact and lots of details to get in order.”
Rob Warkentin says there will be more students riding buses, though the number of buses has not increased. He says HSD will once again have 85 buses, and they will be fuller, especially in Steinbach and Niverville. Warkentin says the increase is because there are more immigrants or just new-to-the-area families.
He says for the past week, the bus drivers have been a bit anxious, wanting to know details of their routes or which kids will be on their bus.
“But you know, we have families still registering and that is affecting routing and you know, those sorts of things. So, it always takes a kind of that first week-ish or so, in transportation to get 99% of the glitches looked after, and then you know, once we get back into the routine, everybody sort of gets things settled and then we away we go from there.”
Warkentin says school bus drivers will communicate with their families and will let the parents know what their child’s school bus number is, pick-up and drop-off times. Parents will also receive the school bus driver’s contact information. However, for students that have taken the bus last year, not much will have changed.
When it comes to bus routes, he says, “Most of the roads, especially out in the rural areas, have stayed the same. Generally the same bus driver, same details, give or take a little bit."
Warkentin says, scheduling all of the bus runs and which students should go on which bus, is a bit of a puzzle.
“There are lots of moving parts to try to try to coordinate to get everybody in and into the schools at the right time and. You know, we don't want to have kids on too early, but we don't want to get them too late that we're showing up after 9am, those sorts of things. There's a lot of, you know, so we are very time sensitive in what we do.”
When it comes to rerouting traffic because of the burnt-out bridge along Hwy 311 west of Blumenort, Warkentin says,
“We worked on that last year, and for this time around, we modified what we had there a little bit, just because it looks like that's going to be a little bit longer until that bridge gets up and running.”
Speaking to bus students, he says,
“It's that time again and I know everyone's excited to get on the bus, but most definitely we're there to get them to and from school safely. And so, many of our drivers have assigned seating. So, we're asking them to abide by that and obviously, to sit patiently and wait while we get to school and mind the rules of the bus, and those sorts of things. And at the end of the day, we'll all get to and from school safely and have a good trip doing it.”
Then addressing the drivers of the other vehicles sharing the road with the school buses, Warkentin says,
“The commuters have had a nice reprieve, over the past two months, you know, not having to worry about the buses on the roads, but we'll be back out and so, be patient with us, especially the first few days while we get everything sorted and nailed down, like our timings. And potentially, we have new students or new families, kindergarten students that have never been on a bus before, so things might take a little longer at a stop of those sorts of things, but just be mindful that when you see a big yellow school bus, chances are there will be a stop and there'll be kids waiting or kids getting off. So obviously, when the reds (red flashing lights) are activated and the stop sign is out, that it's a no passing zone and just give us a bit of patience, and then we'll get the students off and everyone will get home safely.”
Warkentin notes on larger routes along Hwy 59 or 12, where there is a lot of traffic it can be challenging to do the pickups.
“But we just ask for patience, and sometimes I know bus drivers have told me they try and leave 5 minutes earlier and then it's not a problem. So, you know we all got a job to do, and we just want to get everybody to and from home and school safely.”
Addressing the school bus drivers, he says,
“Personally, I'm very thankful for the group of drivers we have. I think they do an awesome job and I know for them it's a busy time, trying to make all those contacts with all their students and all that sort of thing. And I just ask for our drivers to be patient and to monitor the traffic accordingly and drive according to the rules of the road, but also be courteous to those around us, recognizing that we're trying to get our job done, and then at the end of the day, safety is priority.”
“We want everyone to get to and from school safely and have an enjoyable ride. So, I'm very thankful for the group of drivers that we have here in Hanover.”
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