Freeport, Illinois — I want to highlight one of the important areas of the school district: transportation. There are many layers to the transportation department that our community does not hear about. The consistency and routine that school buses provide our community cannot be measured. Students are picked up on time, arrive at school on time, and return home safely at a specific time every school day. Traffic patterns fluctuate with the school bell, and rarely does anyone notice how something as simple as a school bus influences how we live.
The Enrollment & Transportation Department in the Freeport School District starts with a group of individuals that are up before dawn and stay way past the last school bell. The staff in the transportation office prepare the routes, take calls when parents call their children in sick, set up training and professional development for all the drivers, and handle emergency situations that may arise throughout the day. They are responsible to ensure that approximately 2,300 students are picked up and delivered on the correct buses on a daily basis. There are over 175 bus trips each day, ranging from regular routes to alternative school routes to preschool routes, etc. The organization in this office is what sets up the drivers to be able to complete their routes successfully. The office personnel extends to the technicians that keep our buses operating in a safe and efficient manner. There are times when a technician goes out late at night to help a bus that is stalled or stranded at another location. They keep our fleet up-to-date with regular safety inspections and repairs.
School bus drivers are some of the most highly trained and tested drivers on the road. They have the important job of protecting children and we should never take this for granted. However, they are also the people that can make a child’s day. Bus drivers are usually the first people to wish a child “good morning” and then, at the end of the day, to tell them to “have a good evening”. They are the first ones that can help direct a student to a building or to recover a forgotten lunchbox. In the last couple of years, our drivers have played an important role in our Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports system.
Bus monitors also have an incredible responsibility. Beyond keeping behaviors at bay so that drivers can focus on the road, they play an important safety role, from making sure that aisles stay clear of backpacks to managing emergency bus evacuations. However, they are also the caretakers of the bus as they provide a helping hand to students getting on or off the bus and give that all-important smile or kind gesture.
Another group that is not on the buses but that plays an important role in the safe transportation of our students is the crossing guards at each building. We have many loyal and caring crossing guards that place their lives in danger to help our students cross busy and hazardous streets. They are out in the below freezing temperatures, rain, sleet, heat, and snow. Again, these individuals start and end our students’ days with a friendly greeting and smile.
Recent Illinois legislation has made it difficult for school districts to maintain a safe and efficient fleet of buses. The State has not been fully funding the transportation departments, even though it is a state mandate. Legislation continues to add mandates to transportation without any additional funding. The Freeport School District has started using shoulder seatbelts in several of its buses to increase student safety and to ensure we will not need to implement such a mandate all at once.
The Freeport School District, like many other districts, is in need of caring, safe, and responsible individuals to be bus drivers, monitors, and crossing guards. If you are interested in taking on the responsibility of getting our children to and from school or if you know of someone that is interested, please have them contact the FSD Transportation Department (815-232-0580). Bus drivers, monitors, technicians, crossing guards, and transportation administrators are valuable members of the educational team in the Freeport School District, and their vital role in our community should be assured and recognized.