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NOV.2, 2023—The Palmyra-Macedon Central School District is committed to the safety and well-being of its students. This includes the safe transportation of our students.


Recently, the District’s Transportation Department spent a morning with students from the Primary School to review what it means to be school bus safe. Each bus driver met with their students to review safety expectations and practiced those expectations on their respective buses. 


PMP Principal Jamie Murphy says at its core, the point of the meeting was for the students to build a relationship with their drivers. She says it’s important for these relationships to be “lasting and meaningful.”


This is the first year in which PMP students had the opportunity to have a bus, and a bus driver, exclusively for themselves.


Beginning this school year, the District began offering school bus transportation to all Primary School And Intermediate School students from homes and childcare locations at any location within the District boundaries.


The new eligibility rules were passed by voters as part of a proposition in the 2023-2024 budget. 


“We know that our bus drivers play a very important role with our students,” Murphy said. “They are the first to welcome students to school each day and the last to send them off in the afternoon. “


Additionally, the meeting happened a few days after the conclusion of National School Bus Safety Week, a week dedicated to educating students and the public about bus safety.


During the week, we sat down with bus driver Russ Godown. Godown has served as a bus driver in the District for five years. 


He was one of the drivers who spoke to his students during the PMP meeting.


Godown says his favorite part about the job is interacting with the students. He’s spent nearly two decades as a youth swim coach at Pal-Mac, which means he’s no stranger to the importance of connecting with the kids.


“Every morning I greet them, and they usually have some story they want to tell me,” Godown said.


But Godown says perhaps the most important part of the job is keeping the students safe. And he says drivers go to great lengths to do that. 


According to Director of Transportation Darren Everhart, the District follows strict regulations for drivers.


For example, a New York State school bus driver must pass a thorough physical every year, as well as a physical performance test. Additionally, they must submit to pre-employment and subsequent random drug testing. 


They must also pass a comprehensive background check consisting of fingerprinting, character 

references, and driving record check.


And then there’s the training aspect, as drivers like Godown also receive extensive training in the form of an initial 30-hour classroom course, and bi-annual refreshers for the duration of their career. Everhart says the State mandates the refresher course must be at least two hours. Pal-Mac requires its drivers to complete four hours of training.


“All of these regulations, as well as the care and dedication shown by the drivers at Pal-Mac, allow us to enjoy an outstanding safety record,” Everhart said.


Those high safety standards extend to the students as well. Hence the morning meeting at PMP. Among other safety measures, the District introduced Tyler Drive, a GPS and student accountability system that was implemented in early 2019. 


The program, which is used in grades, K-5, empowers students to be accountable for their onboarding and exiting process while providing drivers easy-to-read maps and information on tablets mounted on the bus.


As you can see, the District places student safety on its buses as a priority. And to reinforce that priority, its drivers build connections with the students to keep everyone on the same page.


“As one of the bus drivers I work with says, this is not a hard job,” Godown said. “But it’s a job with a lot of responsibilities, and we take that very seriously.”


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