The Cohasset Public Schools will be charging a school transportation fee for certain students during the 2012-2013 school year. Any child in grades K-6 whose residence is 2 miles or less from the attending school, and ALL children in grades 7-12, will have to pay a fee for transportation services. In accordance with Massachusetts School Transportation Statute, any child in grades K-6 whose residence is greater than 2 miles from school will have transportation funded via the school department's budget. All students must register to receive a bus pass. Bus passes will be required to ride the bus. The fee for one student is $180, with a family cap of $540.
Bus Pass Required
TRANSPORTATION PROGRAM FORMS AND LETTERS
Article from Wicked-Local News May 2008
By Robin Chan, Wicked-Local News
Top row, Tom Ray, Dama Dowd, Joe Foley, April Martin, Kelly Dickson, and Lisa Simmons are the friendly bus drivers you find along the bus route throughout Cohasset. Mechanic Marty Hale, bottom, does the dirty work behind the scenes to make sure that the buses run smoothly. Bus drivers Virginia Clay, Pete Brown, Kathy Fabian, Norm Thoms, and Cosmo Perro are not pictured.
For most kids and parents, Cohasset bus drivers are the first and last representatives of the school system. They greet the children as they climb onto the big yellow school bus, knowing they have the weighty responsibility of handling Cohasset’s most precious cargo. They offer words of comfort to a nervous kindergartner on the first day of school and give a stern warning to a rambunctious middle schooler.
When they head out in their buses, they face the usual obstacles on the road – construction (more so than ever this year, with the Little Harbor water and sewer project), potholes, snow, ice, rain, traffic, railroad crossings – all while trying to control as many as 50 children.
“I refer to us as land pilots,” said Dama Dow, bus driver and driver training instructor.
“It’s multitasking at its best,” said Kelly Dickson, transportation coordinator. The bus drivers balance watching the road with watching the children, who are not always on their best behavior.
“I tell the kids, ‘If I’m looking at you, then I’m not watching the road’,” Dickson said. “There’s not a parent in town who can’t understand how distracting a misbehaving child can be in the back seat.”
Bus drivers have many skills beyond the ability to drive a 40-foot vehicle. They memorize the names of as many as 150 students each year (most of them know more), as well as their parents’ names. They know which students are on their route and the bus stop for each of them. They administer first aid in the event of minor accidents. They play the role of police officer, enforcing the bus rules of no eating, drinking or talking loudly. They also enforce the rules of the school: Osgood students, for example, are not allowed to get off at any bus stop other than their own; and Deer Hill students can ride only their own buses.
Just like teachers, bus drivers have a certain affection for the kids who ride their buses. They watch the children grow and are sad if they change bus routes or move out of town.
They also have to play the role of disciplinarian, if the situation arises.
“We try to handle issues within the bus, but we have the support of the school,” Dickson said.
“We always have to err on the side of caution … we don’t want to put other kids in jeopardy.”
Bus drivers can issue bus incident reports. After several, students might lose their bus privileges.
On the road
Both Dow and Dickson say one of their biggest challenges is sharing the road with inattentive motorists. Drivers talking on cell phones don’t notice the buses’ stop signs; cars tailgate the bus, where the driver can’t see.
Dickson’s favorite tools are the seven mirrors that help the drivers see almost all the way around the bus. But the mirror can only show so much. Anywhere within ten feet of the bus is called the “danger zone,” Dow said.
“If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you,” Dow noted. Mirrors need to be scanned constantly for children and traffic, whether moving or sitting still.
All the buses are have bumper stickers reminding other drivers to stay back 100 feet – approximately the length of two telephone poles.
Astonishingly, several times a week other drivers ignore the school buses’ stop signs, which signal children are either entering or exiting the bus. The rule also applies cyclists, who can be traveling just as fast as a car.
“Sometimes I wish I could put a bumper sticker saying, ‘Would you pass this bus if your child was on it?’” Dow said.
The bus drivers do what they can to be courteous to other drivers. All the bus routes have “pull over” points to allow the cars behind them to pass.
To become qualified to sit behind the wheel of a 40-foot bus, with 50 kids behind them, drivers undergo an involved training and screening process. First, they need pass a written test to obtain a commercial driver’s license. Then they must complete a minimum of twenty hours of on-the-road training in a bus; pass a physical exam and drug/alcohol test; and undergo a mandatory criminal record check. At that point, the Department of Transportation administers a road test. Only the applicants who pass all these tests can drive a bus.
In the transportation world, safety is the priority. When the bus drivers arrive at work shortly after 6 a.m., they do a series of safety checks on their vehicles. They start their buses, check the safety lights, inspect the tires, and check under the bus for leaks.
“We get there early to make sure everything is properly functioning,” said Dow, who has been behind the wheel of a school bus for the last 23 years, 16 of them in Cohasset.
(It was Dow who convinced Dickson to become a bus driver. Five years ago Dickson joined the Cohasset transportation team.)
Cohasset’s seven school buses are 3 to 14 years old, so breakdowns do happen. The bus drivers know their buses intimately, so if they notice a strange noise or new leak, they get in touch with Marty Hale, their go-to guy for all repairs. Hale is also called to the scene if there is a problem or malfunctions while the bus in en route. He is usually able to respond to a call within 15 minutes.
“Nine times out of ten, he’s able to resolve the problem on scene. He maintains the buses and makes sure they are safe, “Dickson said. “The worst thing that can happen is to have a bus grounded. We just don’t have the fluff.”
Hale has a background in heavy equipment repair and he takes his job of ensuring the safety of the buses with great care and dedication.
“There’s no halfway for me,” said Hale. “Dedication to safety is the number one rule and its serious business from aircrafts to buses. I always say I won’t sign off on equipment unless I am willing to put my grandmother in it.”
He said he counts on the bus drivers’ input and never discounts what they say, even if the problem can’t be found on the first try, he follows through. “We have a good team right now. We communicate and all have the same goals.”
Safety is a number one priority, with extending the life of the bus a close behind, he said.
In addition to the seven iconic school buses, there are two full time special education vans.
Each day the transportation team drops off and picks up 53 percent of the student population, approximately 805 of the 1495 students in Cohasset. Middle-High School students are the first to be picked up. The first bus heads out of the Cedar Street bus depot around 6:45 a.m. Because the Middle-High School is the largest route, housing seven grades, all six buses are utilized. Next are the Deer Hill pick-ups, followed by Osgood.
A bus route averages eight miles from school to school.
Dickson says the department tries to transport students on as many athletic and field trips as possible. For athletic trips, they travel as far as Weston or Orleans. The field trips may be long distance, to Providence or Springfield, or right around the corner to the South Shore Art Center.
Scheduling can be a challenge, but Dickson remains on her toes in the event of a sick driver or broken-down bus.
“You plan as best as you can and deal with the scheduling changes as they come,” Dickson said.