LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County students won't return to school until Monday, but motorists may notice more school buses on the roads this week.
Gwinnett's school buses are running practice routes today until Friday at the times drivers are scheduled to pick up students during the academic year, district officials said. Practice runs on Thursday, however, will be limited because bus drivers will be participating in mandatory safety training sessions and back-to-school activities.
Grant Reppert, the district's director of transportation, said the school system encourages parents to use the buses, as the ride helps reduce traffic congestion. The district expects about 120,000 students to take the bus to and from school this year.
"Our primary goal in Gwinnett County Public Schools Transportation is to provide safe and timely transportation for our students," Reppert said. "Our highly-trained school bus drivers, monitors and supervisors are passionate about children and their safety. ... Beginning on day one, school bus drivers work to get to know their students, becoming familiar with each child's bus stop."
Parents can look this week for the bus that will take their child to school. Buses will display a card with a school name in the window to help parents identify the correct vehicle. In addition, local schools can provide bus schedules with route and stop information.
Before the first few days of school, school district officials have requested that parents bring their children to the bus stop about 15 minutes before the scheduled arrival. During the afternoon route, buses may be running behind schedule for a few days as drivers go through additional procedures before releasing children at the bus stop.
All students will be picked up and dropped off at the bus stop serving their home address, unless parents file an alternate address form that allows students to get on or off the bus at a different stop in the school's attendance area at an address designated by parents for child care purposes, district officials said.
While riding a school bus is safe - Reppert said it is "700 percent safer than car transportation to school" - officials are asking parents to talk to their children about safety procedures for getting on or off the bus.
Reppert suggests the following guidelines:
Check carefully for approaching vehicles before getting off the bus.
Cross the street in front of the school bus after making eye contact with the driver, who will signal when it's OK to cross.
Check in both directions before crossing the street.
If a child drops something near the bus, he or she should move away from the vehicle, wave and ask the driver for assistance.
SideBar: Numbers to know
If you have questions about bus routes and bus stops, call your child's school.
If your child does not get off the school bus, call 770-338-4800.
If you have questions about special education transportation, call 770-513-6881.
If you have questions about the alternate address form, call 678-226-7036.
Source: Gwinnett County Public Schools