As local school districts begin the slow process of reopening, officials hope to remind locals to watch out for school buses and school zones again.
“We want to make sure that the public is aware that the buses are out rolling again,” said Mike Sullivan, executive director of finance and operations at the Marysville School District.
It’s been a long time since drivers have had to watch out for buses and school zones since schools closed last March due to COVID-19.
“We haven’t had a school operating as a school zone in almost a year now,” said Sullivan.
Drivers should exercise extra caution around school buses.
“The biggest thing is to be aware of them and watch for when the lights come on,” said Charity Prueher, assistant supervisor of transportation at the Arlington School District.
Flashing yellow lights are a warning the bus is about to stop, while red lights mean that students are loading or unloading.
“Drivers should try not to be in a hurry and be patient,” said Prueher.
Bus drivers have a bit more safety protocols to perform this year because of COVID-19, such as trying to keep six feet between students on the bus.
“When the students are getting on the bus, it can take a little longer now because the bus driver is giving reminders about masks,” said Prueher.
Arlington schools are working on getting each child an assigned seat for their buses.
“We are also driving with the windows down,” said Prueher, because the open windows helps air circulate through the bus and therefore is another safety measure against the spread of COVID-19. She recommends students dress warm.
“If it is cold outside, it will cold in the bus,” she said.
Drivers should stop when they see the stop paddle out on school buses.
“When those stop signs are extended, we need people to remember to stop their vehicles,” said Sullivan. “Unfortunately, it is a little more common than you would think," referring to vehicles which do not stop when the signs are extended.
When drivers are on a two-lane road “then both directions of traffic have to stop,” said Prueher.
If the road has more lanes than that, then only the traffic moving in the same direction as the bus has to come to a stop.
“I know some people get confused by that,” said Prueher.
Sullivan recommends drivers pay attention to the bus and children even if they are legally allowed to continue.
“I would definitely still slow down and pay attention,” he said.
The Marysville School District buses can film those who pass their stop paddles.
“Our buses do have stop arm cameras that can take pictures of violators,” said Sullivan. “I’d rather people know about the cameras and stop than have it be a ‘gotcha.'"