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Ticket to ride — ASD conducts bus ridership week

ARLINGTON — The importance of school bus ridership week was not lost on Marie Gaudin.

“Sometimes I don’t, but usually I ride the bus every day,” said Gaudin, a sixth-grader at Haller Middle School. “My mom told me that I need to ride the bus this week.”

Gaudin was one of approximately 2,500 students who rode an Arlington School District bus during the week of Sept. 28. As part of a statewide count, district bus drivers are required to conduct daily head counts during their morning routes for one week each fall.

Those counts are tallied and forwarded to the Washington state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for funding purposes.

Each school district receives state transportation funds based on the number of students who ride the bus during that one-week span.

“Drivers are given state count sheets and at every stop for five consecutive days they keep track of how many students get on at each stop,” said Cheryl Power, supervisor of transportation for the Arlington School District. “For that week, there’s some extra work on the drivers’ part.”

Bus driver Dave Chapman said he’s used to the yearly count, but said keeping track of students can be difficult.

Chapman uses a clicker — provided by the state — to count individual students as they board his bus during his two morning routes.

“It does slow you down a little bit,” Chapman said. “It’s only a few seconds each stop, but that adds up as you go.”

Approximately 50 students ride Chapman’s middle and high school bus route in the morning. About 40 students also rely on the sixth-year driver’s elementary school route each morning, he said.

Most stops are not a problem for Chapman. He simply marks his daily ridership sheet for each student that boards the bus.

But larger stops in the Gleneagle neighborhood can be tricky, Chapman said, because more than a dozen students get on and off the bus each day.

Despite some hurdles for the district bus drivers, the count tends to be fairly routine, Power said.

Most parents understand the importance of having their students ride the bus during the count, she said.

Power said the district does its best to notify parents of the week-long count.

“Most of the parents are aware of it,” Power said. “We can’t do anything like bribery or give (students) candy.”

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