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Hauling precious cargo to and from school daily

Melissa Topey • Jan 27, 2014 at 12:30 PM

We haul the world’s most precious cargo.

This is the motto Sandusky Schools transportation supervisor Ted Peters and his bus drivers and aides live by every day. “That’s absolutely true,” Peters said.”It takes a lot of caring people to do the job” I was pleased to work a bus route Thursday with driver Denise Rudolph and school bus aide Dawn Forney, a former corrections officer. 

Based on the many greetings the students offered as they got on and off the bus, it was obvious these two women are well-loved.

The affections were reciprocated: “How was your day at school? What did you do?” the women asked. The two know each child’s routine and personality. “They’re a great part of the job. I love it,” Rudolph said. “Those kids get in your heart”

The children showed Rudolph and Forney their schoolwork, then answered questions the two women asked about their day.    The bus drivers start each child’s day with a positive attitude and a cheery “Have a good day” When the day ends and they drop them off at home, they wish them a good night. During Thursday’s On the Job, the children presented no problems.

They boarded, took their seats and remained quiet.

“You all are so good” I said to the kids. “We weren’t that good when I rode the school bus. We would holler at each other across the bus as we talked” The students only started talking when I talked to them. And once that precious cargo gets to talking, they can talk a lot.

The students were adorable. There was Miracle, whose lips were blue from a treat she ate, and there was Jonah, who showed me a picture he drew. One young boy, Logan, told me about making a snowman, while Dominique and Correon both loved the attention. Dominique declared that, one day, he is going to be famous.

There was no maybe, no hedging, just a definitive, declarative statement. “See this paper? See this pencil?” I asked, handing both items to him. “Give me your autograph”

Dominique was mostly curious about Register photographer Luke Wark’s camera. The two became fast friends. Luke teased Dominique about his curly hair; the second-grader has a beautiful head of hair. Luke took off his hat to show Dominique his bald head. “Ohhh” Dominique said. “You’re bald” “You know who else is bald, white and can kick butt?” Wark asked. “Stone Cold Steve Austin”

That caught Correon’s attention. He got to talking about wrestling and Stone Cold Steve Austin. He’s a fan.

“He can kick butt,” Correon said. “He’s cool”

For Peters, the only thing kicking butt these days is Mother Nature. Peters and his staff haven’t slept quite as much these past few weeks, as they’ve been out frequently checking the roads.

“I’ve talked to other districts more than (I’ve talked to) my wife,” he joked. “It’s been a tough winter”

Sandusky Schools took some heat this week when other school districts closed, but Sandusky remained open.

A Level 2 winter weather warning was issued in Erie County because of blowing winds and drifting snow in the townships and on country roads, but by the time the warning hit, some people were already on the road.

Sandusky’s streets weren’t too bad, however, so the district decided to continue with classes. Fields trips outside the city were cancelled.

Icy roads and extremely cold temperatures keep Peters awake at night, more so than snow-covered roads. On bad-weather days, most of the conversations center around the children who walk to school.

“Are they safe to get to school? Are sidewalks clear or will the kids have to walk in the street?” Peters said. “We talk about kids and how are they dressed. They might not have heavy coats. All that stuff adds to the decision.

“We will always err on the side of caution” he said.

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