Fulton schools receive inaugural bus safety award

The state estimates about one million students use school buses to provide safe and dependable transportation every day. To emphasize the importance of safe school buses, the Georgia Department of Education recently announced the winners of its first Pupil Transportation Safety Awards.

Separated into eight divisions by enrollment, the winning districts were selected by a panel, based on an application that evaluated a number of factors impacting bus safety. Among the factors: completing safety training, evacuation drills, and other safety initiatives with students; evaluation of accidents and internal practices to prevent accidents; and innovative initiatives used to inspire safe practices, hire and retrain drivers, and enhance student safety.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our children, and making sure they can travel safely and arrive at school ready to learn,” state School Superintendent Richard Woods said when presenting the awards. “Our drivers and transportation employees work harder than many ever realize, and they’re an integral part of our educational system. ”

Fulton County, winner of Division 8 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 17,001 and 178,200) has 800 school buses traveling more than 7.5 million miles annually. The district meets all federal and state mandated training, but adds additional and advanced training that begins the day an applicant comes to orientation. The transportation department is an active participant in the district’s strategic goal to increase the percentage of students reading at or above grade level by third grade, and is adding magnetized “sight word” signs on the interior ceiling of the buses that serve four pilot schools.

With kids spending so much time on the buses, Sam Ham, Fulton’s executive director of transportation, worked with the school system to use the buses as an extension of the classroom. Many educators believe the bus doesn’t have to just be a vehicle to transport children — it can also be a learning environment.

“Anything that we can do to enhance the learning experience is a win for the transportation department,” said Ham.

Other winners included:

Jenkins County Schools, Division 1 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between zero and 1,300).

Jasper County Schools, Division 2 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 1,301 and 2,400)

Chattooga County Schools, Division 3 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 2,401 and 2,900)

Washington County Schools, Division 4 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 2,901 and 3,700)

Pickens County Schools, Division 5 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 3,701 and 5,250)

Jackson County Schools, Division 6 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 5,251 and 8,850)

Catoosa County, Division 7 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 8,851 and 17,000)