GREENVILLE — Mary Ann Emrick has been a Greenville City School District (GCSD) Bus Driver for 27 years.
She and 12 other drivers, from new to veteran, competed in the annual regional School Bus Driver Safety Road-e-o, Saturday, April 21, in Miamisburg. School bus drivers throughout Ohio participate in regional road-e-o competitions each May, designed to test and increase their operational and safety skills. Top participants at each regional road-e-o move on to compete at the state-level competition May 20. Winners from the state go on to an international event in July. Participants who score 80 percent or more of the total possible points at a regional or state competition may use that event toward their six-year re-certification, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
GCSD Transportation Supervisor Andrew Grasty said 14 school districts competed in the regional road-e-o this year; including Centerville, Miamisburg, Bellefontaine, Graham Local, Greenon Local, Celina, Beavercreek, First Student – Xenia & Miami Valley locations, West Carrollton, Piqua, National Trail, Dayton and Greenville. First year Greenville participants Kim Nader finished 14 and Glen Etter finished 21.
This is Emrick’s second rodeo. The knuckle-biting competition had her and other drivers out practicing the Friday prior to the event, in the former Marsh Supermarket parking lot, under the direction of Grasty. In addition to a written test, the competition calls for bus drivers to drive through an obstacle course, while under a strict time limit. Grasty simulated the course, complete with orange traffic cones, for GCSD drivers to sharpen their skills of different difficult maneuvers that they face on their daily routes.
“We do a lot of turnaround in the country on our routes,” he said. “These folks are backing into farm driveways in the middle of the dark, in the rain, in the morning.”
One objective on the course is “Diminishing Clearance” when bus drivers back up to a fixed object. Drivers are judged on how close they get without hitting the barrier. Emrick said her big challenge is the “Offset Street” obstacle, in which the bus driver must complete a simulated lane change. While some of these challenges can be off-putting, Emrick loves her job because of them, she said. Some of those challenges include: road hazards, other drivers and weather conditions. She also loves the students.
“When you show the kids that you care about them and you speak to them, ‘Good morning’, and you are nice, they know they have to follow the rules,” Emrick said. They don’t have to be screamed at – just show them that you care about them. It also helps to know the parents and develop friendships.”
According to Grasty, the district transports about 1,700 students, in 20 routes out each four times a day.
“Overall safety is the key,” he said. ‘We talk that everyday. There are so many distracted drivers these days. “
For added safety, bus drivers are mandated to do a pre-trip daily around 6 a.m. This involves inspecting 100 plus parts on the bus to make sure they are working properly, Grasty said.
“I love that we are helping get the students to school safely each and every day – and we have the best team.” Grasty said. “They love their job and the children they are taking care of each day. It is very rewarding.”
Also to note, Greenville drivers Kim Nader finished #14 and Glen Etter finished #21. They were both first year participants in the road-e-o.
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