By Jef Rietsma
Organizers of a Bus Safety Carnival hosted by Vicksburg Community Schools were optimistic the third annual event would draw close to 200 children.
Their projections probably weren’t too far off, as a steady stream of families attended the Aug. 17 event, held in the parking lot on the north side of the district’s administrative building.
Organized primarily by Transportation Director Karen McKinstry, the carnival featured food, games, prizes and some important bits of information. McKinstry said the festive atmosphere is a good way to help promote bus safety.
“When I came to Vicksburg as director of transportation, it was my first time as a director and I know the most important thing is for our children to have safe transportation. And for us to do that, they need to understand what they need to do and what the expectations are,” she said. “The Bus Safety Carnival is a baby that was born in my heart, it was my goal to reach these kids from a young age, be consistent with it through the years and so by the time they get to middle school, safe behavior is just normal.”
While the 90-minute carnival last month was geared toward younger students, McKinstry welcomed kids of all ages and even a few from a neighboring district. Bus safety, after all, is a common denominator in all school systems, she said.
The carnival featured two stationary buses. One was used exclusively to demonstrate safe crossing practices. The other allowed McKinstry and drivers to conduct rear-door evacuations. In addition, two more buses were employed to drive families through town and practice on-board safety skills, including railroad-crossing expectations.
Other stations featured games and food, including popcorn, shaved ice and hot dogs. McKinstry gave a shout out to Ibison Concessions for providing free hot dogs and water.
McKinstry said the carnival has yielded success stories.
“I’m excited that people call and ask when’s the carnival, so it’s on their mind, they know about it and they’ve remembered it from last year or the year before,” McKinstry said. “I had a Facebook post where someone said their child was scared, they didn’t want to ride the bus, but they came to the carnival, got to get on a bus and they just got really comfortable, so the carnival took the fear out of it for that child.”
McKinstry said she would like to see the concept of a bus safety carnival expanded to other districts to help reinforce the message of safety. She also welcomes area agencies and organizations as a visibility and promotion opportunity.
Vicksburg Community Schools has 17 bus routes. McKinstry said about 1,400 students rely on district-provided bus service. About 2,700 students attend the district’s schools.