CHESTERFIELD — The school buses rolled out of the depot Wednesday for the first time in two months, ready to make their rounds in Rockwood School District neighborhoods.
There were no pickups or drop-offs, but students and parents gathered at the bus stops to wave, hold signs, cheer and give presents to their drivers to mark the last week of class.
“It lets them know we’re still here to support them,” said Dustin Ray, 33, who has been driving a school bus for Rockwood since 2015.
The school shutdown that followed the coronavirus pandemic has given students and parents a renewed appreciation for school staff members. There have been dozens of car parades for teachers and administrators.
Pattonville High senior Thomas McFarland drove by the school with a note for food service coordinator Julie Purviance that said, “You made my first lunch in Pattonville at Rose Acres (elementary) . . . and now you’re making my last one from Pattonville! Thank you for everything you’ve done for us, Ms. Julie!”
Rockwood chose to celebrate its bus drivers with a final run of the interrupted 2019-2020 school year on Wednesday. Close to 135 buses made 15 stops each to visit the kindergartners through graduating seniors. About 13,000 students ride the bus in the west St. Louis County district, the largest in the area.
Hailey and Collin Moon ran half a block to say hello to Ray, bringing him a cup full of his favorite candy.
“We thanked him for everything he’s done and for just being our bus driver and bringing us to school” at Kehrs Mill Elementary, said Hailey, 11.
Ray said being a bus driver is like “getting paid to be a kid.” He knows the names of all the kids’ dogs and their favorite foods. They share jokes and laughs all the way to and from school each day.
“You’ve got to send them home with a smile,” Ray said.
As happy as the kids were to see Ray and the big yellow bus come down their street again, the parents might have been even more excited after supervising two months of online learning.
One mom handed Ray a cash tip through the driver’s window. Julie McGuire, whose three children are 6, 8 and 10, greeted him from the sidewalk with a semi-serious joke:
“Even if school is not open, please come back and get my children in August.”
Blythe Bernhard • 314-340-8129 @blythebernhard on Twitter email@example.com