All aboard for safety

While today marks the first day back to school for students across the district, it also is the very first day for the youngest ones—the three- and four-year-olds entering kindergarten.
For them, the first day of school can be scary. But the Rainy River District School Board tries to lessen that fear with its “First Rider” program, which introduces kindergarten students to riding the school bus.
Last Thursday, students and their guardians attended the annual workshop at Robert Moore School.
The children watched a short Winnie-the-Pooh video explaining proper behaviour on a school bus, and how to get on and off the bus safely.
“Be good. Sit on the seat, and be very quiet,” said Isabella Ward, four, of the things she learned from the “First Rider” program.
After the video, the young students and their guardians went for a ride on a bus, with driver Aleata Jerry taking them to each of the four schools in town that offer kindergarten: F.H. Huffman, St. Michael’s, J. W. Walker, and back to Robert Moore.
At each school, Jerry showed the students where they would be getting off on their first day, where teachers would meet them to guide them inside.
“We have excellent drivers,” said Susan Sieders, transportation officer with the local public school board. “I can’t say enough for them. They really care for the kids.”
The board offers door-to-door transportation for children in kindergarten no matter how far they live from school, Sieders added.
“It makes the parents feel safe about sending their children to school,” she noted.
Because the drivers want to avoid having the youngsters cross the street to get in or out of the bus, they often have to circle the same block several times to be sure the door is on the right side.
“They have a huge job,” Sieders said.
As well, each school has a dedicated JK/SK bus.
Once the bus ride was over, the participants went back to Robert Moore School, where they kids enjoyed juice and snacks while the guardians received information packages, including the pick-up time for their child.
Sieders warned the bus often runs a little late on the first day of school, with some students having first day jitters or guardians taking pictures.