Kindergarten, First Grade Students SOAR on Trial Run Bus Ride

North Cobb High School cheerleaders and band welcomed kindergarten and first grade students as they arrive with their parents at McCall Primary School after taking a preview bus ride-along July 28. The annual event is designed to introduce the new bus riders to bus safety rules and get them comfortable for the first day of school.

“The school bus is the safest way to get to and from school,” Transportation Executive Director Rick Grisham told parents and students after they stepped off buses at McCall Primary School July 28.

Grisham’s team rolled out the yellow buses to give about 4,000 kindergarten and first grade students, across the Cobb County School District (CCSD), the opportunity to take a preview bus ride on the Friday before school started.

“[The bus ride along] was an opportunity for the kindergarteners and first graders to come out to ride the school bus and lose any fears they might have of the school bus,” explained Vanessa Mandall, CCSD transportation supervisor for area one.

As the buses rolled into the McCall Primary parking lot, the North Cobb High School band struck up a welcome song and the cheerleaders waved pom poms and cheered in celebration of the new students. Teachers greeted the children with goodies and a bus safety book when the young riders stepped off the buses.

During the safety brief, Mandall walked the McCall students through the safety rules for the school bus so the new riders know how to SOAR—ride the bus Safely, Orderly, And Respectfully.

The SOAR safety program includes the transportation team mascot, Hawkeye, who was on location at McCall Primary to high five the new riders.

The students learned the rules of being a safe rider including staying seated, back-to-back and bottom-to-bottom, waiting for the driver’s signal before crossing the street, and arriving five minutes early to the bus stop.

“The parents learned about safety too,” Mandall added. “They learned that their students are safest on the bus. They learned what the driver can actually see on and around the bus.”

Trey’s mom, Jene Hall, rode the bus to McCall Primary with her first grader to give him confidence on the first day of school.

“It will put his mind at ease knowing he has a similar route and the same bus driver as last year,” Hall explained.

Some McCall students were not nervous about riding the bus, but the ride along helped reassure their parents that their children would be safe.

“[The bus ride along] mostly benefits me because I was a little nervous about putting her on the bus at 6:45 a.m. all by herself,” confessed Oakley’s mom Cassidy Maney. “So it will make me feel better. [Oakley] is totally excited and can take on the world.”

Catching the bus for the ride along helped other parents like Hagi Sesay find her son Mohammad’s correct bus stop before the first day of school rush.

“CCSD has about 1,000 buses on the road every day compared to MARTA, which has about 800 buses,” Mandall said. “We move about 80,000 to 85,000 students a day.”

As the second largest school district in Georgia and the 13th largest district in the country for transportation, the entire school community plays a role in bus safety.

“With safety in mind, when you are driving and the school bus starts to flash those yellow lights, go ahead and take the time to stop,” Acworth Police Cpl. Youlanda Leverette reminded parents at McCall. “They won’t be stopped for long to let the kids on or off the bus. When that stop sign is out, you cannot go past it.”

For more information about bus safety and finding your child’s bus route, refer to the CCSD Transportation Department web page.