By Jessica Groover
The Cabarrus County Board of Education received a unique visitor at last week’s meeting.
Buster, the robotic school bus, greeted board members and reviewed safety tips as a part of “Love the Bus” week, a national campaign that began Feb. 9.
Throughout the week, Buster visited R. Brown McAllister, Harrisburg, Pitts School Road and Wolf Meadow elementary schools, as well as Long Pre-School.
Buster is a miniature version of a school bus with a stop sign arm, yellow lights and big eyes that move and blink when he speaks. He has a remote control attached to him and speaks through an operator with a microphone.
Jim Helf, assistant principal at Wolf Meadow Elementary School, arranged for Buster to visit kindergarten and first-grade classes.
“The kids seemed to be mesmerized,” Helf said.
Helf said having Buster review tips, such as where to stand when children are waiting for the bus and how to sit on the bus, are important to learn early.
“When we start teaching them at young ages, we hope it continues,” Helf said. “Transportation is the one area, when you’re talking about education, that can be potentially fatal.”
At Wolf Meadow Elementary, the teachers reviewed the safety tips in the classrooms after the presentation. The school also honored its bus drivers with certificates as part of “Love the Bus” week.
Some school board members recognized Buster last week from past safety events. That’s because Cabarrus County Transportation had borrowed another robotic bus from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction office in Raleigh.
Cabarrus County now has its own robotic school bus, thanks to an $8,000 grant NCDPI received from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
George Douglas, transportation director for Cabarrus County Schools, introduced Buster to school board members and thanked Derek Graham, transportation chief at NCDPI for helping the county receive Buster.
Graham told the board why Buster is so effective with young students. “When it comes to talking to young children about school safety, there’s something special about getting down on their level,” he said.
Board member Andrea Palo agreed.
“I saw (Buster) last year, and you could hear a pin drop when the kids were listening to him,” Palo said.
• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.