‘Love the bus’: Driver enjoys routes on Westside

       February is “Love the Bus Month” in District 11. But where would the buses be without their drivers?

Judy Baker sits behind the wheel of her 66-passenger International schoolbus. She's been driving students to Westside schools for 12 of her 20 years with District 11.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Judy Baker has had routes on the Westside for the past 12 of her 20 years with the district, wheeling busloads of students regularly into such schools as Bristol, Holmes and Coronado. “My route now is just great,” she said. “I have a few problems, but overall it's a good bunch of kids.”
       She enjoys driving on this side of town too. “It doesn't seem to have quite as much traffic,” Baker said. On part of her route, “I go over the Mesa, hit 30th and see the Kissing Camels. It's a beautiful drive every morning. A lot of routes aren't like that.”
       In all, D-11 transports about 5,400 students a day, including 525 with special needs. Baker is one of 120 D-11 drivers, who are supported by 4 bus assistants, 10 mechanics and 13 administrators/support personnel, according to district information.
       The Love the Bus promotion started after the 2006 formation of the American School Bus Council, whose goal is “to educate parents, school officials and lawmakers about the essential role the yellow school bus plays in the safety, health, security and readiness of America's schoolchildren,” its website states.
       Baker drives bus number 24, an International 66-passenger automatic that the district added to the 120-bus fleet this year. She's personalized the interior with a few dozen magnets (mostly stuck to the ceiling above the driver's seat) that show colorful, amiable slogans and pictures. And why not? They make the big yellow machine more inviting to kids; plus, it's fun for Baker. “I spend a lot of time in here,” she noted.
       The job is less fun when the weather turns bad. The worst times are blizzards that show up in the afternoons. But the kids still need to get home from school. “There was one night when it was really bad,” Baker recalled. “I don't think I got back to the bus yard till 8 at night. There were places blocked off where you couldn't get anywhere. It can be stressful, in a big vehicle, driving in weather like that.”
       No doubt, the students that day didn't like having to ride longer than usual. But it's also no doubt that their parents, on seeing their kids coming home safe from the storm, felt some affection - maybe even love - for that big yellow bus.

Westside Pioneer article