Tuesday, August 24th, 2010
By Betty Lawrence
On the road again
Coldwater students chatty as they head back to school
COLDWATER - Lights, check. Turn signals, check. Tires, kicked. Windows, cleaned.
Coldwater schools bus driver Kenny Siefring inspected his 84-passenger bus and pulled out of the district's garage at 7:30 a.m. Monday. He was all smiles as he prepared to welcome 50 young students onto his bus for the first day of school.
He headed south on state Route 118 and turned onto Siegrist-Jutte Road to pick up his first passenger, fifth-grader Roxanne Roessner.
After five years of driving bus, Siefring knows most of the students by their first name.
"Good morning Roxanne," he said as his first rider stepped up into the bus.
If there is a bonus to being the first one on the bus, it's having your choice of a seat. Roessner sat near the front, as did the next passenger, Brooke Fiely, a second-grader.
Fiely grinned from ear-to-ear when her friends, Jayden Abels and Dakota Ontrop, later climbed on board. Their chatter filled the air until the bus reached the school grounds.
Across the aisle, fifth-grader Mikayla Bettinger's eyes lit up when she noticed her room locker was number 2010.
"I can remember that one," she quickly said.
One by one, Siefring traversed the rural roadways, picking up waiting passengers.
An older sister cradled the hands of her little sister as they climbed on board. At another stop, a smiling grandmother watched as her two grandchildren exited her car when the bus pulled up. They lived down a long lane and she had taken them to the roadway to meet their next mode of transportation.
The bus passed manicured farms and country homes and sped past bean fields and corn fields on a beautiful summer morning that marked the beginning of yet another school year. At many stops, parents stood by to see their children off, particularly the younger children, giving them a loving hug and wave good-bye.
The upper level grade students toted gym bags, instruments and football helmets onto the bus. Like their peers before them, they coolly sat at the back of the bus.
The students were excited and eager, and a bit noisier than usual, Siefring said.
"They're usually noisier on the trip home, but on the first day of school, they all like to talk," he said.
At approximately 8:20 a.m. Siefring pulled Bus No. 15 into school and his riders filed out.
He is one of the first people they see in the morning and the last they see at the end of the school day, something he takes seriously.
"I get to know them all pretty well and I try to welcome them each morning by their name, even though sometimes I get their names mixed up," he said.
Some days the weather changes the routine, such as today's fog delay.
"That's the worst, the fog, because you just can't see," Siefring said. "Otherwise, I really enjoy driving the bus and watching the kids get on, especially the first day, and it feels good to get into a regular routine again."
The drivers are required to undergo annual in-service training and every five years must get re-certified as a driver.
The school district has nine regular bus drivers and they are like family, Siefring said.
"We're all friends. In the afternoons, before the kids get back on the bus, we talk and solve all the world's problems," he said grinning.
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