Article and photos by Janet Schultz
Nine hundred kids get on and off the buses at the Lewiston-Porter Primary and Intermediate schools each day. Imagine kids jumping off buses, running and weaving toward the buildings with smaller ones caught in the frenzy.
Well, that does not happen at Lewiston-Porter. The ones making sure it doesn't happen are fifth graders.
They are the Safety Patrol.
"We began the program three years ago with 20 members," explained Jill Jaruszewski, coordinator of the program. "This year we have 112 students.
"They want to lead, they want to be involved and to be part of the process that helps others make safe choices," she says of the volunteers.
Among the 112 volunteers are students Justin Pavan, Gracie Auer, Willow Cutlip and Jessy Bunnell. They explained that they enjoy keeping their fellow students safe and their leadership role. "We go through training, write in a journal if a kid is being bad or not listening to the patrol," explained Willow.
"We write down their name and then talk to Mrs. Jaruszewski," she continued. "She talks to us about it and then we talk to that person."
The four went on to explain that the hardest part is having to ask a friend to observe the safety rules.
In order to make sure the experience from bus to building is safe, they ask children not to run, weave or push, and they also notice if students are wearing proper clothing.
"They've noted things like the wearing of flip flops in the snow or someone with no jacket on a cold day," said Jaruszewski. "They write it down and we discuss how we will handle it."
The patrol agreed that one of the best parts is helping the little kids.
One particular day, Willow found a little kindergartner who was upset because she missed her mom. Willow walked her from the bus to her building, making sure she was safe and feeling a little better.
Another time there was a bus with an oil spill and the Safety Patrol member was worried someone would slip, so they stood near the spill and guided the students around it.
Each rotation has captains that are assigned to oversee the entire bus loop. They walk from one end to the other making sure patrol members are in their correct locations and checking to see if they need any other assistance.
Their jobs don't just entail watching students coming and going.
"When the Safety Patrol is in place, we wave the buses to let the students off," said Gracie. "And at the end of the day, we wave the buses to leave when we know all the students are on."
"We also place the orange cones once the buses are parked so no cars can come in or out where the kids are going to be walking."
The Safety Patrol is the first off the bus in the morning. They go in and get their safety equipment, which includes their sash and journal, and they are the last to board the buses to go home.
"We are a little family," said Jaruszewski. "They see the little things and come up with ways to address the kids.
"And the difference in the way they speak to the younger kids versus their peer group is priceless. There are still pushers, but our goal is to help 900 children be safe going to and from the buses," said Jaruszewski. "It's a challenge."
The Safety Patrol also appears on the school newscast in both buildings and talk about being safe.
"Their leadership role at this age is valuable and they show that they want to make the safe choice," she continued.
A former Safety Patrol member, now in eighth grade, approached Jaruszewski and offered to come back and speak to the younger kids. His experience in the Safety Patrol has made him a leader on the student council and helped him make a career choice, that being in law enforcement.
"I didn't know it at the time, but he struggled (with safe choices) when he was younger," explained Jaruszewski.
"On the surface it looks like a fluff program," explained Intermediate Principal Andrew Auer. "But it has empowered these students and some of them that were the runners and weavers now see things from a different angle."
"We let anyone who signs up get an opportunity (to be on Safety Patrol)," said Auer.
"This has taken (on) a life of its own," said Jaruszewski. "The students lead it and have discussions. I don't go take care (of) a situation unless it's needed."
One of her captains last year made up stickers at home and handed them out to the students who were "being good," meaning following safety rules.
"They wore them proudly," said Jaruszewski.
"The Safety Patrol members aren't bossy or bully-like," she emphasized. "They know they have to follow the Intermediate School mission of being respectful, responsible and resourceful."
All fifth-graders are given the opportunity to join the patrol. They must get permission from their parents, they go through a training, which includes a video by the Automobile Association of America, receive a handbook and fill out a membership form, which is also signed by the parents.
And just for the comfort of all those reading this, there is adult supervision at the bus arrival and departure area as well.