First Student, the bus company that runs Kodiak’s school buses, held the open house to give riders a chance to explore the buses. The event was targeted for preschoolers and kindergartners, but kids new to Kodiak or new to riding the bus also attended.
“A lot of these kids have never been on a school bus before, ever,” said Jerry Clark, First Student’s Kodiak manager. “It helps them understand why buses do what they do.”
Kids and parents had the opportunity to climb aboard several different buses, including the bus for students with disabilities and the four-wheel drive bus that goes to Chiniak.
Nicole Schwan brought her two kids, Taylor and Callie, to the open house.
“I think this helps with some of the fears by already knowing the bus and what goes on and where it takes them,” Schwan said. “It’s a new adventure for them.”
The bus drivers talked to the students about what the lights mean, what to do when the driver honks the horn, staying in their seats, and how to get on and off the bus safely.
First Student has 29 buses in Kodiak, although not all of them are used at the same time. The company also operates one bus in Port Lions and one in Old Harbor.
All of the school buses are new models, either 2012 or 2013 buses. They are equipped with all safety features required by the Department of Transportation, including emergency exits and a reinforced structure. They are also equipped with Zonar, a GPS-like system that provides the location of the bus and helps drivers make safety checks.
“Every day drivers do a thorough pretrip inspection before going on the road,” Clark said.
Some students were able to meet their future bus drivers at the open house.
“It’s a very big deal the first time they get on a bus,” driver Ward Findlay said. “We talk to them and greet them in the morning to establish a repertoire and let them know we know they’re there.”
Findlay has been driving school buses with First Student for 10 years. This is his second year in Kodiak.
“Kodiak kids are really respectful,” Findlay said. “They listen and make driving easy.”
At the end of the school bus tour the students received a certificate saying they completed the school bus class.
First-time school bus rider tips from First Student
-Point out the bus stop to your child before the first day of school.
-Introduce yourself and your child to the bus driver on the first day of school.
-Reassure your child that you will be there to meet them at the end of the day.
-Be ready and at the bus stop five minutes early.
-Meet the bus on time after school.