PORTLAND, Texas — With the start of school, parents want to know their children are safe in the hands of their bus drivers, and drivers understand that getting in the driver's seat -- protecting the safety of others -- is a huge responsibility.
Gregory-Portland ISD Transportation Director Alton Coleman stresses that every day to his district's school-bus drivers.
"Being a bus driver, you got to always keep in mind that you're No. 1 priority is to make sure that the kids are safe,” Coleman said. “We want to make sure that we are getting them home and back to school the best way we know how."
These drivers train twice a year, with instruction that includes video, a classroom portion, and hands-on role-play training.
"I load up all my drivers, we do live scenarios of the scenarios of evacuation, the back door evacuation, front door evacuation, so they can know how to do it with their students," Coleman said.
These scenarios cover everything from a bus breaking down on train tracks, to a fire inside the bus, to how to evacuate after a crash -- anything that could put a child in danger.
Besides local authorities, Gregory-Portland ISD has a 'crash committee crew' that investigates accidents as well. Here, they meet and go over what went wrong, and what needs to be implemented in their training.
Coleman, a school-bus driver himself, has been put to the test a number of times.
"Those students were safe on that bus at all times, and we had to transport from one bus to the other,” he said of one instance of trouble. “At that time, we had to make sure it was done safely, decently and in order, so that there would be no incidents."
Coleman said everyone who drives students, including those driving athletes to and from games, are all required to have a Class B commercial driver’s license. Bus drivers also must have a certificate from the Education Service Center.
He said a big factor in who he hires is the candidate loves kids, and believe in the youth of today.
"I think that's the best thing I can tell you: “Hey, (we’re) doing it for the kids, to make sure they're safe,” he said.