"We want to have a good school year," said Randy Thompson, director of Sikeston R-6 transportation. "So we want parents to make sure they show their children where the bus stop is and how to get home when the bus drops them off."
Last year 26 students were killed and another 9,000 injured in incidents involving school buses, according to the National Safety Council.
"What many parents do not realize is that more often than not these deaths and injuries did not occur in a crash, but as pupils were entering and exiting the buses," said University of Missouri safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch in a release. "A few common-sense tips can go a long way toward a safe return to the school year."
Thompson agreed there are simple things parents and their children can do to ensure safety at the bus stop. He suggested children wear bright clothes so the bus driver can see them, and he said always arrive at bus stop at least 10 minutes early, especially on the first day of school.
"I'd really like for parents to impress upon the young kids to make sure when they're at the bus stop, they're paying attention to the traffic and not playing in the traffic," Thompson said.
Once the bus arrives, children should stay on the curb until the bus stops and the doors open, Thompson said.
"Parents need to make sure and tell their children not to chase the bus and that if they do miss the bus, it's not the end of the world," Thompson said.
Children should line up in single file to board the bus and be courteous to students and the bus driver as they're loading onto the bus, Thompson said.
"Children should go to their seat and sit down, and we'll take them on to school," Thompson said. "They should never throw anything or stick anything out the windows of the bus."
Children should take special care when getting off the bus.
"They should walk along the side of the road or on the sidewalk to a point at least 10 feet in front of the bus if they must cross the street," Funkenbusch said. "Tell your kids to be sure that the bus driver can see them. Wait for the driver's signal that it's OK to cross."
And children should never walk behind the bus, both Thompson and Funkenbusch said.
"If they drop something near the bus, make sure that they tell the bus driver. They should never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see them," Funkenbusch said.
Thompson advised parents, a couple days before school starts, to take their children to the bus stop then show them which way they're supposed to walk home.
Also the more parents/guardians waiting at a bus stop with children, the better, Thompson said. Having someone waiting for the child after school is a good idea, he added.
Sikeston bus drivers transport about 2,500 students one-way in a given school day, Thompson said. To prepare for Thursday's first day of school, bus drivers are currently making sure buses are ready and running good, and new drivers are being trained and new routes tested, he said.
"Things are more congested the first week or two of school, but we make sure we keep things as consistent as we can," Thompson said.
Thompson also asked other motorists to simply pay attention as school begins this week.
"We haven't had buses on the street in a while," Thompson said. "They'll be saturating the town so be aware of school children on the streets and buses traveling up and down the streets, stopping and starting."
Thompson also advised motorists to be on the lookout for young children anxious to start their first day of school.
"Be as patient as can be," Thompson requested. "It's a new day for some of these kids, and it may be the first day to ride a bus."