School district and students appreciate their bus drivers
The Staples-Motley School District has held a School Bus Driver Appreciation Day for the past several years. This year, the rest of the state is joining them, as Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed the first statewide celebration of school bus drivers on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Bus drivers are a huge part of the Staples-Motley School district, which covers over 470 square miles. The bus routes also cover students outside the district in the Verndale and Pillager areas.
The Staples-Motley bus service runs 15 regular bus routes, has six contracted routes, plus daily runs of vans and cars for smaller groups going as far as Brainerd and Deer Creek. Besides the three buildings in District 2170, they also provide transportation for Sacred Heart Area School and Freshwater ALC. On a normal day, the bus service transports approximately 900 students, which can become more than 1,000 if all the students are riding the bus that day. Staples-Motley bus drivers log approximately 30,000 miles per bus drivers have driven for 323 extra-curricular events; including sports, arts and class field trips.
“They do an incredible job for the number of miles they drive,” said Norby Klimek, the bus garage manager.
Despite the large area, Klimek said they try to get all students home within one hour after school. “We are very close to doing that for the kids inside the district,” he said.
It takes a lot of coordination and puts pressure on the bus drivers to stay on schedule and make adjustments for students who are going different places each day, such as day care, a grandparent’s home or to a different parent’s home.
“The drivers are awesome, to be able to figure it out and to know if something doesn’t sound right,” said Klimek.
“We have a pretty good bunch of drivers, although driving is only about 50 percent of it, the other 50 percent is managing the students,” said Klimek.
Bus driver Karen Zetah agreed, saying “I like kids, it’s a good fit for me.”
She and her husband Joe both have a regular bus routes beginning near their home in the Lincoln Lakes area. They keep their buses at home overnight, saving themselves driving time and saving money for the school.
Karen’s been driving three years. She started with a car route, moved on to a short bus and now drives a full sized bus that’s wheelchair accessible. She has an aide that rides her route to help with special needs students on her bus. Joe’s been driving for 11 years and has done a lot of driving for sports teams. When Karen started driving, they stopped milking cows and downsized their farming operation.
Karen said the drivers have to time their routes right so kids aren’t sitting too much in one spot. “As long as you’re moving, they’re okay,” she said.
As part of Joe’s daily route, he drives a shuttle bus between Motley and Staples. The students riding that bus were interested in the upcoming Bus Driver Appreciation Day and wanted to share some thoughts.
“He’s the best bus driver, he helps us with our problems,” said Maddison Stiner.
“He’s super funny and fun to talk to,” said Jeremiah Ford.
Joe told Jeremiah that the best gift he could get on Bus Driver Appreciation Day was for him “to be good.”
The school’s Bus Driver Appreciation Day will include a pancake breakfast Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 8:20 a.m. at Staples-Motley High School cafeteria. Klimek said they will bus some of the elementary students so they can take part in the celebration.