Bus drivers practice to protect students

One of the most hands-on training was through active shooter simulations.

MASON COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- More than 400 bus drivers from across Michigan joined in a day long training at Ludington Area Schools Friday. The goal was to become better educated when it comes to protecting students on their way to and from school.

During the nearly a dozen classes, or rotation groups, drivers were educated on things like what to do if the bus were on fire, knowing the signs of a child struggling, recognizing what makeshift drug paraphernalia, first aid and how to evacuate the bus.

One of the most hands-on training was through active shooter simulations.

“Reality training is the way to go for any type of scenario including bus drivers, it’s the reality of what could happen,” said Chief Deputy Oscar Davila, with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. “We want to give them some options, so the first day of school they have some thought process some ideas they can start thinking about in case things go wrong.”

“It’s pretty scary and it’s almost surreal because when I was a child on the bus we didn’t have to deal with that so it’s scary to think my children have to,” said Lacey Waalkes, a bus driver with Greenville Public Schools.

Drivers also learned that communication is key, whether it’s between bus drivers and school officials or drivers and students.

“We should be giving them those tools so they can save themselves because there is no excuse, there is no reason why anyone on this bus should die,” said Deputy Mike Fort, with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s training that these drivers need and they don’t get anywhere else,” explained Katrina Morris, the transportation supervisor with West Shore Educational Service District.

Morris said instructors and law enforcement volunteered their time for the training.

“Not only is that person driving a 40-foot vehicle in all types of conditions in northern Michigan, they are dealing with medical needs potentially, they are dealing with traffic, tourists,” Morris said. “They are also dealing with maybe being a mentor and being a friend to that child on the bus, they are being a referee sometimes and doing it all while safely driving that school bus safety to and from school each day.”

All of the training and food provided is free for bus drivers.

The courses are paid for by the Northwest Michigan Transportation Consortium.

Friday’s training was the fifth time the sessions were held. This year school bus drivers from 40 different school districts participated.