News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Aug. 2, 2013
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- In just three days, almost 25,000 students head back to school in Columbia County.
And with more than 150 routes and almost 200 bus drivers, the county's doing everything it can to make sure kids are getting on the right buses and to and from school safely.
"We have the drivers pick up their buses and they started dry runs," said DeWayne Porter, the district's transportation director. "It will go through Monday, excluding the weekends."
Drivers are taking their routes -- stops and all -- to help make sure everything runs smoothly.
And although many have been driving the same route for years, Porter says a lot has changed, including routes for the three new schools opening their doors.
"Stop locations with new students," he explained. "New subdivisions, new roads on the route, so they get accustomed to the stops and the directions they need to be driving on the first morning of school."
There are 190 drivers in total for this school year, who've all gone through a lot of training. Everyone must have a commercial driving license and at least six hours of driving without students on the bus, but Porter says he has his trainees go above and beyond that minimum.
"Our drivers and trainees here get between 15 and 25 hours of driving without a student," he said.
The practice runs are also a good reminder to the rest of us that the buses are back on the road.
"Loading and unloading students is the most dangerous thing we do every day because they're crossing the road in front of a bus and there are distracted drivers out there," Porter said.
He says there are about 13,000 students who ride the bus every morning and afternoon in Columbia County, which is another reason the dry runs are so important.