SOLON, Ohio – School may be out for summer, but state bus drivers are in a classroom of their own.
More than 250 drivers from across the state gathered at Solon High School for the Ohio Pre-Service Bus Driver Training Program, giving them training that goes beyond state requirements.
“Ohio has over 19,000 school bus drivers and we travel over a million miles a day transporting Ohio students to and from schools,” said Bob Harmon, an instructor with the Ohio Department of Education. “Part of our rule is you need to know all the safety procedures, pick up and drop off, the hand signals, proper loading and unloading methods.”
Within a few days, drivers will take 10 different driving courses to help enhance their life-saving driving techniques.
This is the 35th year for the program.
This year, the staff is taking things to a whole new level with a live rescue.
Danielle Kneisely, 18, is a special-needs student from the Dayton area. Her family traveled to help drivers learn how to transport a wheelchair-bound student and her service dog, Bobo.
In the exercise, a bus filled with smoke to simulate a fire on board.
“They’re actually feeling the little bit of shut-down of the lungs,” Harmon said. “They’re actually feeling a bit of panic of I can’t see my hand in front of my face.”
Danielle's mother, Kimberly Bish, also participated in the exercise. Her family has participated in dozens of demonstrations, but admits every time seems like the first.
“Your heart started to beat a little bit faster,” Bish said. “You got a little excited. But we’re there to make sure that everybody’s evacuated safely and properly and making sure that we’ve got Bobo out the way he needs to go.”
Nearly 16,000 bus drivers transport 65 percent of Ohio’s school children every day during the school year, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Kimberly and her husband, Mike, said they hope the training will give drivers the confidence to protecting the most precious of cargo.
“If this helps other kids and other service animals in other districts, then we feel we’re doing something good,” Mike said.
“But if we can just impact one driver, because you never know when this situation can happen to you,” Kimberly added. “It can happen any day at any time, so we’re really happy to be a part of the team.”