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Viewpoint: District 833's assigned bus seating warrants more help

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opinion Cottage Grove, 55016
SWC Bulletin
651-459-9491 customer support
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

In regard to the recent article in the Bulletin (“Students to find their spot on the bus,” Sept. 4): We were surprised to read that so many of our students were fearful to ride our buses. When the person who has held the position of safety coordinator for several years admits that the situation is out of control and needs more help, the association must take notice.

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We take notice when students are afraid to get on the bus because they might not find a seat. While the district mainstreams kindergarten and pre-K students, I believe that it is the duty of the association to do something about it. We take notice when the conditions on our buses are so bad that assigned seating must be implemented. And the safety of the kindergarten and pre-K students is an issue. Then it is the duty of the association on behalf of its members to negotiate these new work conditions. We are in our contract negotiations now and these matters should be addressed. Our focus, as always, is on the safety of the students — to ensure that the seating chart is being adhered to, and that the vulnerable youngest students are getting on and off at their assigned stops. These measures create a distraction for the driver. Therefore the school district has created the need for an assistant on each bus that needs these extra duties. The district has created the need and should be glad to create these new positions.

When District 833 Transportation Director Ron Meyer implemented these new work conditions, he stated at our latest meeting with him that he consulted with his transportation administrators. As far as I know, none of these administrators, outside of emergency driving, have been involved in driving a regular route for at least 10 years. Mr. Meyer did not involve any drivers in this decision. Mr. Meyer also asked the opinion of the group most likely to agree with anything he proposed.

I would say conservatively that our district has at least 500 years of school bus driving experience. That means that Mr. Meyer based his decision in this district on zero percent experience and ignored over 500 years of experience. In almost all human endeavors, experience is highly prized.

In any event, these work conditions implemented by the district are such that the extra distraction is a safety hazard if it is all put on the driver. If management does not want to pay for them, then maybe they don’t consider them that important. The Minnesota State Patrol has compared distracted drivers to driving under the influence. We cannot have our drivers distracted during the most dangerous part of the ride – while loading and unloading students.

Gerald Scherbel

Scherbel is vice president of the Association of School Bus Drivers

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