Forty years ago Carol Minear applied to be a Warwick School bus driver because it enabled her to babysit her grandchildren at the same time. Carol is still behind the wheel of a Warwick School …
Forty years ago Carol Minear applied to be a Warwick School bus driver because it enabled her to babysit her grandchildren at the same time. Carol is still behind the wheel of a Warwick School bus.
April Lenardo applied to be a bus driver for a similar reason. She had gone through a divorce and was looking for a job where she could keep an eye on her children. That was 21 years ago.
But April has known Carol for even longer. As a student at Lippitt School, Gorton Junior High and then Veterans Memorial High School, she took the bus driven by Carol. The two have known of that connection for years so it didn’t seem much of a deal Friday as they and other Warwick drivers gathered at First Student offices on Strawberry Field Road to select their routes and run trough exercises designed for adjusting mirrors and establishing reference points so drivers can calculate distances and safely drive their bus.
Carol is the senior veteran Warwick school bus driver.
“It has always been a good job,” she said. No particular incident, or for that matter student, stands out in those 40 years. She does remember Gorton students being especially considerate, which may have been a reflection of policies and rules set by the administration. She wasn’t driving when the Blizzard of 1978 hit, so naturally didn’t face being stuck with a bus full of kids as happened in some parts of the state.
She has witnessed changes. Carol believes buses are “safer and built better today.” Since classes resumed in person following the COVID-19 shutdown she said there has been a drop in school bus ridership.
Carol doesn’t disclose whether it was babysitting her grandchildren that drove her to driving school buses or that she took up the babysitting routine once she was driving.
“It’s a perk of the job,” says Steven Walker, manager of the Warwick First Student office. Walker said drivers are permitted to bring along kids and grandkids one year and older. Walker is keen on emphasizing the benefits of the job, as First Student is actively seeking to fill positions.
Walker said the company has sufficient drivers to cover the city’s 59 “big” buses and 34 mini’s.
“We definitely need drivers, we never have too many,” said Walker. Drivers need a CDL (commercial drivers license) that First Student will train them to get. The program runs four to six weeks during which prospective drivers are paid minimum wage. Drivers are eligible for medical benefits and can participate in a 401K retirement plan. Walker said details and applications can be found on workatfirst.com.
Asked about new equipment this school year, Walker said new buses are mixed in the fleet. In the not too distant future he sees electric buses.
“We’re looking into going green,” he said. “It’s in the First Student crosshairs.”
Will Carol still be busing kids when it happens?
It could be. Asked if she planned on retiring, Carol said as long as she’s healthy she plans to be behind the wheel.
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