School may be out for the Summer but safety training is ongoing for bus drivers.
One Treasure Valley bus crew, in particular, is getting kudos from their students' parents.
For Lonni Leavitt-Barker, it wasn't an easy decision to send her 7-year-old son, Kean, to school on the bus. Diagnosed with leukemia at age two, he also has down syndrome and is on the autism spectrum.
"It was scary to send him back to school after everything he's been through," Leavitt-Barker says.
However, Leavitt-Barker knew he was safe under close watch of one of the special needs crews with Cascade Student Transport.
Driver Bob Hudson has kids and grankids of his own and says safety of the children on board is the number one priority.
"Getting on the bus and getting off the bus are the most dangerous times. Drivers don't always stop at red lights and everything," Hudson says. "So, we have to be cautious when we let the students off the bus."
Hudson is not alone on the ride. He has a bus monitor who helps get the kids situated and, in some cases, secures wheelchairs in place and reads Dr. Seuss books with students. It gives parents like Leavitt-Barker peace of mind since Kean can be a handful and doesn't always like to sit still.
"They buckle him in and they have a harness and she puts him in that... and makes sure he's safe and snug," she says. "Then, she kind of checks on him. She reads stories to him."
Students who ride the special needs bus also might have disciplinary problems and emotional challenges. Parents and school staff determine who the riders are when going over Individualized Education Program, or IEP, plans.
On the job for a year now, Hudson's bus monitor can relate to the parents.
"I learned a lot this year with the kids, even with having a son with special needs of my own," says Jodi Marker, a bus monitor for Cascade Student Transport. "It's rewarding."
For more information on what it takes to become a school bus driver at Cascade Student Transport based in Meridian dial 208-229-8500.