The back-to-school commercials are starting, a sure sign that students are in the midst of the back-to-school ritual of getting summer reading lists completed, and back-to-school shopping is in full swing.  I’m sure everyone has seen the one commercial that has the dad dancing in the aisles doing school shopping with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” blaring in the background.  I guess for this dad, the start of the school year is better than Christmas!

When you work in the school transportation industry, it’s interesting to compare the back-to-school hustle and bustle to the holiday rush. Both times of year involve a strict deadline and tons of work. Come Christmas Day all of your shopping, cooking, hosting duties, and travel plans need to be done.  For school start-up you have to make sure all of your students are registered, buses are routed, parents are notified, bus dry runs have been completed, and every “i” has been dotted and “t” has been crossed, down to which exact transfer bus a specific student will board at a certain time on the first day of school.  Phew…  It’s a lot of planning.

How many times have you heard of someone starting their holiday shopping in October and instantly felt a mix of jealousy (How are they so with it and able to look that far ahead?) and disgust at the same time? (Why would anyone actually start that early?)  However, when you think about it, no matter how early you start, everyone still feels that pressure at the end.  Plenty of school transportation departments start planning for the first day of school in January.  Can you imagine planning for next Christmas in March? But while this helps alleviate the stress (some), I’m certain that you’re still feeling the pressure in August or September when the first day of school approaches.  Even if a department begins planning months before, there may be last-minute wrenches thrown into the mix: unexpected changes in policy due to a budget or a levy not passing, changes in routes to suddenly, and magically, make them more efficient, a new program being added to a school, or school that requires changes in transportation.  Then there are all those changes to student information that need to be made: everything from new addresses to babysitter busing information.

Here’s hoping that everything goes as smoothly as possible and that you have prepared enough to meet any obstacles while maintaining a smile on your face.  Despite all the work and the stress that comes with the first day of school, it also means excitement that you get to see your bus drivers, support staff, and students again.  When that last student steps off the bus at the end of the first day of school, you might just feel a little like some do at the end of the Christmas season: relieved, glad you survived and warmed by the thought of how many people you just made happy with your hard work.

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