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Buster the Bus meets with Upshur County Board of Education members Tuesday to show off the features of the mini-robot school bus which helps students learn about school bus safety. Upshur County bus operators Jennifer Ervin and Randall Starkey will take Buster to the elementary schools to help students learn to be safe. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

‘Buster the Bus’ makes learning bus safety fun — and he’s pretty cute, too

TENNERTON – The Upshur County Schools Transportation recently showed off their newest training equipment to the Upshur County Board of Education: a remote control cartoonish replica of a full-sized school bus, which has a working stop sign and flashing red lights — just like a real school bus.

And his name is Buster the Bus.

Jodie Akers, Upshur County Schools Director of Transportation, introduced bus operators Jennifer Ervin and Randall Starkey as school bus safety instructors.

“Last year you heard me talking to the board about Buster the School Bus and so we wanted to bring him in tonight and introduce you to him,” Akers said. “We had our first fun-filled day at Tennerton Elementary School and had a visit from the Buckhannon Academy Elementary School Wonder Academy at the bus garage so we got to introduce them to Buster, too.”

Akers said she wanted to give a thank you to Weyerhaeuser and the Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County, Inc. for their grant funding to purchase Buster the Bus.

Ervin said Starkey does all of the training with the kids in the school.

“Buster was a hit today,” Ervin said. “The kids at Tennerton Elementary School loved him. On Thursday, we will go to Hodgesville.”

Ervin said Buster the Bus helps students the proper way to load on the school buses and tells about their flashing lights.

“Earlier in the year, we took a real bus and told them what they needed to do for us and taught them not to be eating and drinking on the bus,” Ervin said. “There are emergency exits and we talked about that and other safety issues.”

“We talk a lot about safety and let the students know what they can do to help us be better bus drivers,” Starkey said. “We need the students to realize as bus operators, we need to be looking forward because that is where everything happens for us. Anytime we need to look inside the bus to see what is going on behind us, that takes our eyes off the road. We ask students to help us out – stay in their seats and do not get in the aisles. The biggest thing we are trying to do is help kids help us to be better drivers.”

Upshur County Director of Finance Jeffrey Perkins said he always hears the question asked if Buster the Bus is the way to teach students school bus safety.

“That is the whole purpose of this device,” Perkins said.

Following the BOE meeting, during a phone interview with My Buckhannon, Akers said the idea to purchase a Buster the Bus for use in Upshur County Elementary Schools came from one of the bus operators after they asked bus operators what they would like to be brought to the garage.

“When we started at the bus garage, one of the bus drivers came in and said they would like to have Buster,” Akers said, adding that we laughed at the suggestion because she had not ever heard of him. “I did my research on Buster the Bus and learned that years ago, we had the ability to use a Buster the Bus when he was a part of RESA 7 – but Buster the Bus was lost to a fire there.”

Akers said it had been many years since Upshur County Schools had access to Buster.

“We did some research and found out more about him,” Akers said. “It was going to be a large investment but we were fortunate to receive a grant from Weyerhaeuser and from the Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County, Inc.”

Akers said Buster’s arrival was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said Buster the Bus is built per order.

“We received Buster after the new year,” Akers said. “We have taken Buster to Tennerton and Hodgesville Elementary School so far and we will get him to the rest of the elementary schools.”

During Buster the Bus’ visit to Tennerton Elementary School, Akers said the reaction of the students was amazing.

“I am not sure who was having more fun-the students or the two bus instructors,” she said. “The students squealed and chanted ‘Buster’ and that was exactly what we were hoping for – that the students would really get engaged with school bus safety learning and that is what Buster is bringing to us – it is experiential learning – and Buster is making learning bus safety fun.”

Akers said Upshur County Schools Transportation Department is making safety a priority.

“October 18 kicked off National Bus Safety and that is when we first went out into the schools to talk about bus safety,” Akers said. “The two instructors went to all of the schools that week and presented with counselors and administrators about school bus safety.”

Akers said Upshur County Schools is very excited to have Buster the Bus.

“We hope in the future to be able to share him with other counties,” she said.

Additional information about Buster the Bus robots is available online at www.robotronics.com.

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