Despite COVID-19 school closures in many school districts nationwide, school bus drivers have remained on the frontlines delivering meals and homework packets. And in the cases where schools reopened for in-person learning, these transportation staff members have risked their own health and that of their families to transport students.
This month, school districts recognized their drivers in a variety of ways.
Minnesota took the American School Bus Council-sponsored celebrations one step further, as Gov. Tim Walz proclaimed Feb. 21 – 27 as School Bus Driver Appreciation Week across the state. “Our school bus drivers have stepped up in unprecedented ways to serve Minnesota’s students during an incredibly challenging year, and I am forever grateful for their dedication to our students’ education, safety, and wellbeing,” Walz said via a press release.
Since 2017, the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association and Minnesota Association of Pupil Transportation have partnered to recognize School Bus Driver Appreciation Day in Minnesota each February. This year, however, the day was expanded to a weeklong virtual celebration event. Content celebrating school bus drivers was shared via social media by several agencies.
“Minnesota school bus drivers have taken on new essential roles during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve their communities, such as delivering meals and distance learning supplies to families, providing Wi-Fi connections, and transporting the children of first responders and healthcare workers to and from daycare,” according to a joint association statement. “School bus drivers have also followed new, rigorous health and safety protocols to transport students to and from school safely during the pandemic.”
School districts across Minnesota celebrated School Bus Driver Appreciation Week by passing out student-made thank you cards and providing food and beverages to school bus drivers. The 1-35W bridge in Minneapolis was also lit yellow in recognition of school bus drivers on the evening of Feb. 21 and into the early morning of Feb. 22.
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The celebrations don’t stop in Minnesota. For example, the mechanics at Huron Valley Schools in Highland, Michigan, decorated the transportation department’s dispatch window.
Transportation Director Bobbi Bican for Conewago Valley School District in New Oxford, Pennsylvania, told School Transportation News that every year he asks the elementary students to color “Love The Bus” Valentine’s Day cards, and then he distributes them to his drivers.
“This is an annual tradition that the drivers and myself look forward to,” Bican said. “It was especially nice this year because we all need something extra to smile about.”
One of his drivers, Vickie Miller, works for contractor Lincoln Bus Lines and has been serving the district since 1984. Bican said it’s an honor to work with her every day.
Bloom’s Bus Lines based in Massachusetts also celebrated its drivers. Erin Ducharme, director of accounting & financial control for the company, said drivers received goodie bags with personalized notes.
Meanwhile, Amanda Briegel, who’s apart of the transportation team at Grand Haven Area Public Schools in Michigan, told School Transportation News that Superintendent Andrew Ingall bought the transportation department shirts that read, “We drive a school bus in the snow. What’s your superpower?”