Getting A Head Start On Bus Safety

October 22 through the 26 is Bus Safety Week, and the NOCAC (Northwest Ohio Community Action Commission) Head Start Program at the Fulton County Board of Developmental Disabilities is doing their best to get the message out there; not only to their students, but to the community. Jen Fisher, first year Transportation Specialist with Head Start, has brought in some help to aid in communicating the importance of bus safety to the children in the classrooms. This helper’s name is Safety Sam and, while he may only be a stuffed bear no more than eighteen inches tall, he makes a big difference to the kids.

“I wish I could say it was my idea,” Jen Fisher says, “But Safety Sam was created by Tina Heily, the Child Development Coordinator at the EPIC Head Start in Yakima, Washington.” Safety Sam always leaves the children in the classrooms he visits an activity to do in the classroom to reinforce the ideas that were just learned. Notes are also sent home to the parents with ways that they can practice and model the safe practices that their children learned such as buckling their seatbelts when in the car and looking both ways when crossing the street.

“It’s different than me just coming in and talking to them,” says Fisher. She says that this cute bus safety mascot provides the children with easier access and fuller attention to the lessons about transportation safety she is trying to bring to the classroom. Transportation safety is a constant focus in the Head Start classrooms. “Our teachers use a guide to include transportation in the classroom each lesson plan,” says Fisher. “Amy Thomas, our Child Development and Education manager, provides a list of areas that need to be discussed each month.”

These monthly topics break down in the following way: September focuses on front evacuations, bus safety rules, seatbelt safety (as Head Start buses have seatbelts) Crossing the street and other pedestrian safety measures, and introducing parents to the bus. October is about rear evacuations, waiting for the bus, and boarding the bus. November combines the previous two months and teaches combination evacuations and talks to kids about danger zones. December revisits front evacuations and teaches students about railroad crossings. January is back to rear evacuations, and there is a review of bus and seatbelt safety rules due to the long Christmas break, and the cycle pretty much continues to repeat from there. Clearly, the NOCAC Head Start Program takes bus safety very seriously, and many of these transportation rules and lessons will help keep the children safe on the road and the sidewalk throughout their lives.

The Head Start program is clearly doing a great job with the preschoolers, and what’s more, they’re doing it free of charge for families who meet the income guidelines. Yes, NOCAC Head Start provides free preschool for children ages three to five. This free program prepares children for kindergarten and provides healthy meals and snacks. The staff is all qualified and degreed, and children with special needs are more than welcome in the program. This great service is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and the ACF, and the grant amount issued covers 80% of the program costs used for this project.

So, take Bus Safety Week as an opportunity to promote safety, not just for children, but for everyone, on our roads. Buckle up even when the kids aren’t around, and check again before pulling into that intersection. Have a safe and happy, Bus Safety Week.

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