First Rider Program Initiates Littlest Learners On Bus Safety

Students safety board a school bus for their first ride while proud family members look on.

Riding the school bus for the first time can be both a scary and exciting experience for the Near North District School Board’s (NNDSB) youngest learners. That’s why since 2012 Nipissing-Parry Sound Student Transportation Services (NPSSTS) has run the First Riders program.

NPSSTS Safety Officer Anna Leppinen said the First Riders program introduces students and families to the process of riding the school bus and what is expected of everyone involved. The roles of the bus driver, bus company, the consortium, families and students are all discussed.

The program is a wonderful introduction to how to ride the school bus safely, Leppinen said. Students watch a school bus safety video, receive a lesson on the rules of the school bus, and have the opportunity to ride on a school bus for the first time. Students learn safety tips, rules and expectations of their behavior while riding the school bus and while waiting for the school bus to arrive at their stop.

After the video and discussion of bus rules students line up at several mock bus stops and safely board the bus as it makes the rounds. The First Riders then go on their first school bus ride all by themselves while families get their own lessons in school bus procedures.

First Rider hosts review the primary policies and procedures of student transportation with families. These include procedures around inclement weather days, arranging pick-up and drop-off locations, the process for locating a misplaced student and student behaviour management.

Parent Logane White said her daughter, Hali, had never been on a school bus and was nervous about riding for the first time. “We thought this was a great opportunity for her,” said White.

“She was very excited to participate in the First Rider program. She loved learning and asking questions, the bus ride and playing with the little demonstration buses. The package from NPSSTS with the colouring page and magnet were also a hit,” White said.

“I was happy about the safety video shown to the children and that my daughter was able to ride the bus alone. That really allowed her to have the full experience,” White said. “It is comforting to know she’s done it once before school starts.”

White feels it’s very important for both students and families to attend the program for many reasons. One being that the little riders are used to riding in car seats in personal vehicles.

“If we had not gone to this program, the first day would be very confusing for Hali to climb onto a giant bus that has no seat belts or car seats,” White said. “This helps ease the parents’ mind and children’s mind on that first day of school. It’s a big transition for little ones and this program helps with that transition,” she added.

Leppinen said bus drivers report overall satisfaction in young learners’ feelings of safety and comfort with loading onto the school bus for the first time. Families also seem to have a greater sense of direction in terms of who to approach for different requests for changes to transportation, she said.

The program has been popular and successful since its creation with participation numbers increasing steadily each year leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. In-person sessions had been paused for the last two years but all areas of the program experienced steady participation numbers for its return in 2022.

Sessions ran in all areas served by NPSSTS and were offered in French and English. NPSSTS manages and coordinates all school transportation services for NNDSB and its four co-terminus school boards.


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