School bus program set to run in Red Deer this month

First Rider helps kids get acquainted with their school bus

School divisions in Central Alberta are working together alongside Prairie Bus Lines to ensure first graders are comfortable when they start using the school bus system for the first time.

The eighth annual First Rider Bus Safety Event, a joint operation between Chinook’s Edge, Red Deer Public and Red Deer Catholic school divisions, helps young students learn about protocols and procedures by taking them through a 45-minute program which includes activity stations designed to help the kids become familiar with their new commute.

“We feel it’s important to get as many young riders to participate as possible, even if your child will not be riding a routed school bus to and from school daily. Your child could still ride the school bus for field trips and it is important that they understand the safety rules,” said Kelli Pickett, safety and training coordinator with the Red Deer Catholic Transportation Department in a press release from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS).

A familiar face — Winnie the Pooh — helps guide young students in a video.

The video goes over, “Safety priorities at the bus stop, conducts a safety evacuation and discovers the ‘danger zone’ around the bus where incidents are most likely to occur,” according to the release.

“These young students will likely be on our buses for several years, so we want to start them off right,” said Patty Thompson, assistant director of transportation for Chinook’s Edge, in the RDCRS release.

“The event takes place right before school resumes in the fall, so it’s a great way to transition from summer into a safe year ahead. First Rider is popular and successful – we’ve had at least 200 students participate every year since we started the program in 2009.

“That’s a lot of young people who have a better understanding of safety, and a lot of parents who have a reminder about bus safety, just in time for school start-up.”

First Rider is a free, open event and will be at Ecole Notre Dame High School on Aug. 15th running from 1-3 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m.

“School buses transport students for millions of miles across this province, through a range of weather conditions,” said Scott Hucal, general manager of Prairie Bus Lines which serves Red Deer and the northern areas of Chinook’s Edge, in the RDCRS release.

“We welcome any additional supports we can provide to further enhance safety for our bus students. We will always continue providing information and practice sessions at the school level, as most students will be on the bus at one point for field trips.

“But for our regular bus riders who are just starting out, the First Rider program will make this important journey into school less intimidating.”

– Vaughan