District 833 students to find their place on the bus
Gone are the days when a student nervously walks down the bus aisle searching for a place to sit.
Starting this school year, all District 833 school buses are implementing a seating chart as a way to better address safety.
"We want to be able to account for all the students that are on our school buses," said Ron Meyer, director of Transportation Services. "It's about knowing who's on the schools bus and knowing who's supposed to be on the school bus.
"It gives the bus drivers more tools to get the kids back home safe."
It was Meyer who first suggested the possibility of implementing a seating chart, since he has worked with seating charts in the past — both as a bus driver and as an administrator. Meyer previously worked for Eden Prairie Schools.
"One of our big goals is obviously to always be looking at student safety on our school buses," he said. "The bus ride is an extension of the school day."
Meyer and Bobbie Joson, transportation student safety manager, said the change was not implemented to address any specific behavior needs.
Meyer said the main goal of the school bus seating chart is twofold.
"It's an effort to help the driver know their kids easier," he said, "and it also allows the kids to know where they are going to be when they get on the bus, which kind of takes out some of that anxiety."
Joson said allowing the bus drivers to know the students can only be beneficial to students.
"If our bus drivers are being very purposeful about forming relationships," she said, "I can see that students would confide or talk with them and just have another adult in their life that is a role model for them."
The seating chart will not be going into effect until the end of September since the bus drivers will be responsible for developing the seating charts once they have gotten to know the students, Meyer said.
"It's not necessarily we're dictating where the kids have to sit before they even get on the bus," he said. "We understand that there are kids that are going to want to sit by their friends and this will not disallow that from happening.
"All it does is give the driver an opportunity to make sure kids are in a place where they can succeed on the bus."
Even though each individual bus driver will be working with students and parents to develop the seating chart, District 833 has a few overarching guidelines that it wants each bus driver to follow, Joson said.
On elementary buses, students in pre-kindergarten through first grade will be seated at the front of the bus, second through third grade will be in the middle of the bus and fourth and fifth graders will sit at the back of the bus.
For middle school, sixth-graders will be asked to sit in the front half of the bus and then seventh- and eighth-graders will fill in all other remaining seats.
Each student will be assigned a row number and either red or black, depending on which side of the aisle they will be sitting on.
High school buses will not have assigned seats given that a limited number of students ride the bus and students' schedules differ dramatically throughout the year due to afterschool activities.
Both Meyer and Joson said the new assigned seating will probably be an adjustment for students, but in the long run they hope it will prove to be successful.
"This is a positive change, it's not punitive," Joson said. "It's to help students succeed so that when they do get to school they are ready to learn.
"Once the kids see it in action, it will be different than what they think it will be — I think they will like the structure."
"The one thing about kids is that they adapt really well," he said. "They'll end up enjoying and appreciating knowing where they are going to sit."