Seventh grader Janee Roberts sat with bus driver Sharon Lowell as they ate their lunch outside Queensbury Middle School during the year’s first bus huddle on Sept. 26.
Students, bus drivers and aides ate lunch outside and were tasked with coming up with a mascot name for their buses like Pickle and Yellow Sub-Maureen. They all shared stories of pets, siblings, sports and their least-liked school subjects.
“I really like the bus huddle,” said Lowell, who has driven a school bus for six years. “When you’re driving, you always have students who sit up front and others who sit in the back, and you don’t know the ones in the back. This gives us a chance to get to know each other better in a more personal way.”
Bus huddles are just one of several initiatives sponsored by the Queensbury Union Free School District to improve relationships on buses and reinforce positive behaviors to make students and drivers feel safe and respected.
“The main initiative is to build better relationships between students, peers and drivers,” said Cheri Martindale, director of transportation. “We want to focus on correcting behaviors and positive relationships versus consequences and discipline.”
The district will hold another bus huddle at the William H. Barton Intermediate School on Tuesday, Oct. 17 during National School Bus Safety Week, always held the third full week of October. Bus drivers are also planning to visit classrooms at Queensbury Elementary School to read books to students.
“A bus driver is often the first person a student sees in the morning and the last person they see before they go home,” said Sarah Grant, QMS assistant principal. “This relationship can make or break a student’s day.”
A bus ride can set the tone for the rest of a student’s day, said Amanda Denno, assistant principal at Queensbury High School.
“The bus is a busy place with many students,” Denno said. “Providing opportunities like the bus huddles and the bus driver read-alouds allows drivers to make connections with students off the bus in a space where it isn’t so busy.”
These initiatives make drivers and the students feel more connected.
“It’s calming to get to know your bus driver,” Janee said. “You get to communicate with more students and the bus driver, and it makes me feel better when I’m on the bus.”