The Cobb School District let kindergarten students and their parents participate in a dry run of their bus routes Tuesday morning to help everyone get used to the new experience.
Not every kindergarten student will ride the bus, but the district does project enrolling about 8,100 of them this year, compared to the 8,432 that were counted last March.
This is the fourth year in a row the district has held the ride-along, which also allowed the bus drivers to get a practice run in for every route before welcoming students in all grades onto their buses today.
“This is our first bus ride, first kindergarten student, first everything,” said parent Jose Drapeau.
He and his wife, Jodi Drapeau, rode the bus with their 5-year-old son, Dominic, who sat with two of his friends on the bus and seemed pretty pumped about the whole experience.
“I’m not nervous,” Dominic said, adding that he’s also excited about his first day of school.
“Elation, fun, adventure, those kinds of things are going through our heads,” Jose added.
He also complimented the system for allowing families to be a part of this first-time experience with their young students.
“What I remember (as a student) is on the first day of school, you go and everything is done on the first day, so you’re overwhelmed, so this way it’s bit by bit,” he said.
In an attempt to prep their son for the day, Jose and Jodi tried to make it seem like a fun thing.
“We just kind of made it exciting, told him his friends were going to ride it and hopefully we can keep up that excitement so we can get him up in the morning,” Jodi said.
With Dominic catching the bus every morning just before 7:30, the couple is hoping to wake their son up around 6 a.m. The 5-year-old’s pick-up and drop-off spot is at the entrance of the Brandon Park subdivision off Hembree Road in east Cobb.
When asked about any nerves surrounding Dominic going off to school for the first time, Jodi and Jose said they are a little anxious but with Dominic having friends on the bus, it makes it a little easier for everyone.
“If it was just him and he didn’t know anyone, I’d be a little bit apprehensive, especially when we aren’t on the bus with him, but with his friends, I don’t think it’ll be an issue,” Jose said. “He’s a social butterfly anyways.”
For one of his neighbors, Jennifer Conant, she is used to putting her children on a bus with four of her five being in school, but 5-year-old Aiden is the first she’s ever had ride a bus in kindergarten.
“We have lived in Florida, so this is my first kindergartener to ride, but because I love their bus driver and I am so thrilled that she is their driver again, I don’t worry,” she said. “I just worry about the other drivers.”
She’s also a little more at ease because Aiden will be riding with his older brother, 10-year-old, fifth-grader Andrew.
Throughout the test run on Tuesday, bus driver Michael Graham, who was subbing for the full-time driver but has been with Cobb Schools for more than seven years driving in that area, said he tried to make it as comfortable a process as he could for all parents and children.
He introduced himself to each child and family, answered questions throughout the hour-long route to and from the school and gave a brief run down when they stopped at the school as to how students will enter and exit the bus.
“Once in a while I’ll have a kid cry but it’s usually only on the first day and for a few minutes, but once they are on the bus and going, they’re OK,” he said. “Doing this run helps a lot because they get to get on and are a little bit more ready (Wednesday). Before we did this it was harder.”
More info on bus routes, costs
The Cobb School District’s 938 school buses will travel about 64,950 miles per day this school year, which is similar to last year, according to transportation director Rick Grisham.
The only changes in this year’s routes are for the new Smyrna Elementary and expanding Teasley Elementary’s campuses in south Cobb.
Grisham said they had to shift buses and staff because of the opening of the new school and expansion of Teasley to make way for anticipated construction.
Students in kindergarten and first grade at Teasley will be housed at Brown Elementary for the next two school years. Brown closed in May as a result of the school system’s south Cobb redistricting in 2012.
The average run on a route lasts around 25 minutes on most regular education buses and drivers make four runs in the morning and afternoon shifts.
The approximate cost for fuel is $3.31 per gallon, which is 13 cents cheaper than last school year at a cost of $3.44 per gallon.
Grisham said the district purchases gas in bulk and group pricing is set by North Georgia Co-op, so they cannot control fuel increases or decreases.
Marietta City Schools has had a similar ride along for young students for the last 13 years but spokesman Thomas Algarin said this year the board voted not to do the test run because ridership has decreased the last few years and to save a potential $1,500.
The city school system will begin school on Thursday with 65 buses on the road.