Tony Harris went into Thanksgiving break a happy man.
Harris, who directs transportation services for Monongalia County Schools, told Board of Education members last week before the holiday recess that the business of getting students to and from their buildings for the day is as a smooth as can be right now.
Which is saying a lot, he couldn’t help adding, given that his drivers went intothis fall with a complete overhaul of bus routes.
The transportation department undertook that change last spring at the direction of Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr., who wanted continuity on bus routes for the school day.
His motivation was making sure students were picked up dropped off daily by the same driver.
“Our bus drivers are some of the most important folks in our system because they are the first people to greet our kids in the morning and they’re the last that say goodbye to our kids in the afternoon,” the superintendent said then.
“And a lot of these drivers can make or break a kid’s day.”
That’s how Harris came up driving a school bus – which he did for 20 years in neighboring Preston County, before moving into administration in Mon.
By the time he was done, he was transporting the kids of the kids who rode his bus to school.
Mon’s drivers are now experiencing the same, which hadn’t been the case in the recent years, Harris said.
Such continuity always makes for a smooth ride, the director added.
“They’re seeing the same kids morning and afternoon,” he said.
“It lowers disciplinary issues you may have.”
While Mon County runs from the transportation gamut from urban-styled gridlock to narrow mountainous roads, the new system of routes even has a built-in contingency for a county, that unlike some of its neighbors, is actually experiencing people moving in.
As in families moving in, with school-aged children in the house.
“We’re averaging, I would say, probably at 85% capacity on our buses,” Harris reported to the board. “That’s where I want them to be, because it allows for growth in the areas where the buses are running.”
Now, he’s hoping for an influx of people behind the wheel.
His department just started a training session for those might be interested.
That first session last week showed promise, he said.
“We had 10 applicants,” Harris said, “and all 10 showed up for the training.”