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Special School District of St. Louis County
 
SSD Bus Monitors Play Key Role
in Student Success

An alarm clock set for 4 a.m. is the norm for Special School District’s bus monitors, who are often the first school-related faces that students see in the morning. And it is that first interaction that can make a difference in how the day goes for students.

Bus monitor Holly Baker said she clocks in and walks onto a dark parking garage lit by flashing yellow lights while drivers prepare the buses to make sure all is working properly. Baker has been a bus monitor for two years.

“I walk on and take a seat on what I consider to be an extension of the classroom,” said Baker. “Communication with staff, parents and coworkers that are familiar with the students is key to build great rapport and relationships so that the students have a safe ride to and from school and feel safe.”

The work schedule for a bus monitor is unconventional. Most must arrive at their garage between 5 and 6 a.m. While most bus monitors have their morning and afternoon routes, others also have midday routes. 

“I begin my day a little before 6 a.m., and my morning run returns to the garage around 9 a.m.,” said bus monitor Evelyn Mitchell, who has worked at SSD for 21 years.

“I go home for a short break and handle my home needs. I return to Central Garage at 11 a.m. for my midday route – taking the early childhood students home to their families,” said Mitchell. Another break and then Mitchell’s afternoon route begins around 1:40 p.m.

In addition to interacting with students, parents, and SSD staff, bus monitors are also tasked with ensuring student safety and security.

Bus monitors must check the equipment inside the bus, including wheelchair hookups, safety vests, star seats and seat belts, to make sure they are ready for the day. They are also responsible for keeping the students in control so that the bus driver can focus on the ever-changing driving conditions.

“I keep a close eye on the students and am aware of any situation that should arise,” said Mitchell. “I’m also used as a second set of eyes from time to time for my driver depending on the situation that he or she may be in.”

Mitchell enjoys working with children. She said monitors and drivers deal with a variety of challenges including weather, traffic and what goes on at home or school for each of the students.

“I really enjoy the opportunity to work with these extremely special students,” said Mitchell. “It’s rewarding to see them accomplish a task for the first time, help them talk things out, and see them graduate.”

Suzanne Lang, a bus monitor for 28 years, said she loves her job. “The students are the best and I have met the most wonderful people. We build relationships with not only the students, but also with parents, teachers, and nurses.”

Lang has a daughter who received services from SSD and said she came to terms with her daughter’s disability when she got her job as a bus monitor.

“I learned that people are just people,” said Lang. “It is a complete blessing to learn about new families and embrace them. Some of the relationships I have built are life-long and we still keep in contact.”

Baker said the rewards of being a bus monitor are never ending. “A high-five from a student that doesn’t usually communicate, a 3-year-old early childhood student greeting you with a warm smile and saying your name after not seeing you for months,” she said. “Yes, this is why I walk out to that parking lot before sunrise.”

SSD bus monitor Suzanne Lang and Minela Duracak, a student who receives services from SSD at Hancock Place High School in the Hancock School District
SSD bus monitor Suzanne Lang and Minela Duracak, a student who receives services from SSD at Hancock Place High School in the Hancock School District

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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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