AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- Students in Columbia County are headed back to school which means bus drivers will be out on the roads as well. From Monday, July 31st through Friday, August 4th drivers will begin testing their routes in the mornings and afternoons to ensure a safe bus ride for students throughout the county. Charles Donaldson, a Columbia County bus driver and trainer starts his morning at 5 a.m. to prepare for his first route.
“One thing you never want to do is go into a route blind and not knowing what’s on the route, where the stops are, and all the things that you need to be aware of,” Donaldson says.
His route consists homes along the Old Evans Road area which has been under construction for the last year. He says getting familiar with the route helps him prepare for the start of the school year.
“If you get out and do a pre-route run before your actual day of picking up students you won’t have those issues and you won’t be late,” Donaldson explained.
Post cards have gone out to parents informing them of changes to their child’s route. The card includes information such as Driver name, bus number, and drop-off and pick up locations and times. Assistant Director of Transportation Shirley Doolittle says drivers going out early on their routes raises awareness amongst drivers.
“As of Monday, August 7th drivers will be out with 216 different buses so it lets the parents and students see that we’re there we’re in the neighborhood and get an idea of where the stops will be,” Doolittle says.
This year three of the routes have been changed and over 1,000 students have been impacted. Doolittle says as a growing county they try to keep as much consistency as they can when it comes to bus drivers.
Consistency is key at least for Donaldson who says the best part about his job is building relationships with his students.
“Some of these kids I will have had now for three years. I’ve watched them grow, watch them change, and you get to impart a lot of knowledge onto them,” Donaldson told NewsChannel 6.
With all of the changes happening to the roads and the routes, student conduct on the bus can be an added distraction when it comes to keeping students safe.
“Parents make sure your child understands what it means to ride a school bus. It is an extension of the school its not just this random vehicle that picks your kid up and drops them off. That behavior that they need to have is the same as they need to have in school,” Donaldson says.
Donald says although he doesn’t get first day of school jitters he’s looking forward to encouraging his students that do.
“I look forward to letting them know it’s not going to be a miserable day and getting them to school. Plus that and seeing all the students that are returning and talking to them about how their summers went and of course they have to find out what I did for my summer. It’s like seeing old friends again,” Donaldson chuckled.
School begins for students on August 7th. If you have note received a post card in the mail you can visit the Department of Transportations website enter your address and find the closest bus stop to you.