Manassas Park Transportation News
2018/19 School Year –Issue #3 – November 2018
Jason Martin, attendant for Bus 27, was a volunteer for this year’s Special Olympics, hosted by Manassas Park City Schools.
“I worked the parachute event,” he said. “Me, Tammie and Olga. The kids all grab a section of the parachute and they play games. They call a color and the color runs under the parachute or they throw things up in the air like Olga’s hat and watch it bounce. It is fun.”
This is the first year Jason has worked as a volunteer, but not his first year in attendance.
“I always enjoy the Special Olympics,” he said. “I like to see the looks on the kids’ faces. It makes the children happy.”
Manassas Park hosted last year’s Special Olympics too, but last year they got rained out and had to reschedule, so the turnout was not as good as it should have been. This year, they had beautiful weather and a great turnout. Athletes and buddies attended from many area schools, including:
· Cougar and MPE
· MPMS and MPHS
· Mayfield Intermediate
· Metz MS
· Osbourn HS
· Osbourn Park HS
· Parkside MS
· Round Elementary
· Stonewall Jackson HS
Close to a dozen employees from transportation volunteered this year to help with the event.
“I threw my hat and a pair of shoes on the parachute and we tried to make it go higher and higher,” said Olga. “It was a new experience for me, but I would do it again. It is for the children. It made me feel sentimental to see a child who cannot talk suddenly smile and clearly be so happy.”
“The joy you experience at the Special Olympics really is contagious,” said Patricia Hurley, Transportation Director for Manassas Park City Schools.
“I had so much fun volunteering that I almost forgot I was working,” said Yanira Fuentes, MPCS School Bus Attendant.
“I liked it,” said Phan Luong, also an attendant. “I will plan to do it again next year.”
Hello and Good-Bye
This month we say hello to a new driver, Belinda Lucero, who happens to be the sister of Cristina Reyes, Bus 26.
“It was a joy to work with Belinda,” said Vikki Davis, one of the trainers. “We got to train in a lot of rain, which was a challenge, because we had to spend a lot of time working on the pre-trip. Belinda is a fast learner. We were able to get her through in a timely manner. I think Belinda will be a wonderful driver and interact with the kids very well.”
Unfortunately, we also had to say good-bye to Ramon Nieves, a driver who has been with us five years.
“I am very happy being here,” said Ramon before he left. “But the commute between Sterling and Manassas Park has become too much, especially because there is so much time between shifts.” Ramon is going to work as a driver for Loudoun County.
“Manassas Park has a great leadership team. Patty, Susan, Dave and everyone else - they are incredible people. They are very kind and patient to deal with those of us who struggle with English. Even with the misunderstandings, they keep trying to understand. That is awesome.”
Ramon’s English has improved since he started here. He enjoys reading books in English about American history.
The day Ramon finished his training, he slipped on the yellow curb and broke his wrist. It was the first bone he had ever broken in his life. At the time, he thought that was a very bad sign, but as time went on and he developed friendships and relationships with his students and coworkers, and he said what “started as a bad sign, ended up being a very good sign.”
Traffic Getting Worse
How has driving a school bus in Manassas Park changed over the past twenty years? Here are a few thoughts from some of our veteran drivers:
· We have more distracted drivers and speeding drivers. A lot of them try to get past you in the morning to get through the light. My advice is, if they seem to be in a hurry, just let them go. They aren’t worth it.
· We have more people cutting us off, especially going across 28. Most of the time, they are moving to the right to turn right on 28, but sometimes they will fool you and go straight or turn left, often without warning or signal.
· No one stops for pedestrians anymore, even when they are in the crosswalk. If you do stop, which is the right and lawful thing to do, you run the risk that the car behind you wills swerve around you on the right and hit that same pedestrian you were trying to let cross.
· There are more cars parked on the streets, which means the streets are even narrower and you never know when some kid is going to dart out between two cars to try to catch the bus.
· We have more families living with other families in the same house, which means more students at each stop. In some cases, two buses are required to pick up a single stop.
The population of Manassas Park has increased 8.1% since 2010, and in 2014 was estimated at 15,427. But the issue our bus drivers face each day are not necessarily with our own residents, but with those who cut through our city to get to the VRE, I-66, I-95, or areas north of us, such as Sterling, Chantilly, Dulles or Leesburg. Our land area is 2.5 square miles.
“Our transportation department is committed to taking the lead when it comes to safe driving,” said Transportation Director Patricia Hurley. “We have what we call a heads up meeting every Friday. We use this meeting to discuss issues we have within our community, and traffic and safety are always at the top of the agenda. Like most districts, we are short-staffed so both Susan and I drive daily to help with the shortages in our department. We talk about the importance of staying focused when we are behind the wheel and how important it is to stay vigilant about observing what is going on around the bus, especially when students are loading and unloading.
“I am proud to say that my team knows the important role they play in keeping our children safe and our parents, our administration and the entire community rely on us. Before they are even in kindergarten, we teach our youngest riders the importance of respecting others, following the rules, and always making safe choices while on the school bus. We cannot control the traffic, or the poor decisions that other drivers make, but we can do our very best to keep our students safe even in challenging roadway conditions.”