The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

School bus drivers focus on safety, friendliness


January 11, 2018

Wahkiakum School District bus drivers include, front, l-r, Lee Tischer, Jerry Lyski, Bob Gawith, and Fred Hoven, and back, l-r, Paula Quigley, Sarah Tobin and Carol Mast. Courtesy photos.

Submitted by Brent Freeman

Administrative Director

Wahkiakum School District

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers... Excellence... Simply Delivered... When it absolutely, positively has to be there...

These are the slogans for major US delivery services. Here in Wahkiakum County, we also have a delivery service that carries our most precious cargo and has done so for decades with little recognition. The Wahkiakum School District Transportation Department provides delivery service to approximately 240 Wahkiakum County kids each and every school day. That's more than half of the students enrolled in the school district.

During 2017, school district drivers successfully and safely drove more than 66,000 route miles and an additional 9,000 special trip miles on our rural roads and highways. That's a little more than 370 miles a day in all conditions. To put that combined 75,000 miles in perspective, that's the equivalent of driving completely around the world-three times!

Moreover, they do so managing to ensure safety was and is held to the highest standard.

It goes without saying that driving a school bus in the county's rural setting requires great skill and unsurpassed patience. The Wahkiakum School District is very fortunate in having a veteran staff of bus drivers who service seven full-time routes and one on-call route tailored to students with special needs.

The school district transportation supervisor/coordinator is Calvin Grasseth, an 11-year veteran with the district. Grasseth not only schedules and manages the transportation department, he also provides all preventive maintenance, all repairs, is the driver in reserve on an as needed or substitute basis, is the route trainer, and is state certified as a commercial driver's license (CDL) instructor and also to train for the required School Bus Endorsement.

He is fortunate to be surrounded by a seasoned stable of drivers who take the wheel and drive the routes day-in and day-out. This includes Sara Tobin who has been driving for the school district for over 20 years, Linda Ashe and Kassy Burdick, both over 10 years, Paula Quigley and Lee Tischer, both over two years, and Jerry Lyski who has been driving for the district for about a year and a half.

In addition to the full time drivers, the district is also fortunate to have five reserve drivers including Carol Mast who continues to drive for the district even though she officially retired from driving several years ago and contributes more than three decades of driving experience to the district. The district has four other reserve drivers who collectively contribute more than a decade of experience--Chris Garsky, Fred Hoven, Deb Howie, and Bob Gawith.

All together, that's nearly nine decades of high-end licensed, state-certified driving experience behind the wheel and in front of the kids. Reserve drivers play a critical role in the district's transportation needs, and if community members or county residents are interested in becoming a certified reserve school bus driver, they should and could contact Grasseth at the district transportation office.

Driving a school bus is certainly a challenge and many people don't realize the extensive training required to drive a school bus in Washington. All school bus drivers have to not only obtain their CDL, but they also have to earn the Washington State School Bus Endorsement. Training for this takes months and requires the drivers to know detailed mechanical information about the buses in addition to road safety.

Calvin Grasseth is WSD Transportation Supervisor/Coordinator.

Many people don't realize that school buses provide the safest means of transportation to and from school and that more than half of all US school children are transported to and from school each and every school day. Every year in the United States and Canada, school buses provide an estimated 10 billion student trips from home and school, and each school day nearly a half a million buses transport nearly 27 million children to and from school and school-related activities.

Drivers are often the ones setting the tone for the kids as they start their day in school and also when they come home at the end of the day, for they are almost always the first non-parent adult the kids interact with as their day begins and the last non parent adult they interact with before coming home.


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