School bus drivers driven by duty

Early hours, winding roads, loads of youngsters with school on their minds

Getting up before the sun does every day is no easy task. All the bus drivers responsible for transporting the students of Washington County to and from school do this every day and for some of them, it’s been over many years.

“I love my job and I really enjoy the kids,” said Randy Church.

Church, 63, has been driving the windy-road western Washington County district of Warren Local Schools for eight years.

“I hit a deer once. I never saw it until it happened and that’s probably the most wild thing to happen to me,” he said. “There was one bus driver that had a turkey go through their windshield. Now that was wild.”

Church starts his day at 5:45 in the morning every day. He picks up students along parts of Ohio 339, 550, and even 676.

“I tend to drive pretty good in inclement weather. There was one time that it didn’t start snowing until the kids were in school. Some of those backroads in the district get covered really quick,” said Church. “It was scary but the kids helped guide me to get everyone home safe. It took me almost an extra hour to get everyone home.”

“I’m blessed that kids haven’t been too rowdy for me either,” he added. “I don’t like to embarrass the kids and shout at them while driving. Besides, I’m facing forward so how do they know I’m talking to them?”

Church said that he always takes the opportunity when a child is acting up to make them learn something from it.

“I don’t want to put them on the spot. I let them correct the problem,” he said. “I’m somewhat retired so I really enjoy what I do.”

Melissa Antill, 36, has been driving the bus for Wolf Creek Local Schools for 13 years. When talking about her time as a driver, she explained that the bus drivers of Wolf Creek have a ton of fun doing their job.

“I have had some super great kids over the years. Some are so great that it’s nice when I know someone hiring for a babysitter or a job I love to give recommendations,” she said.

One thing that Antill has always used to keep the students settled down on their commute to and from school is using the radio.

“We have a radio that the we use as a privilege the kids know if the radio goes off it means quiet and someone is doing something wrong,” she said. “It really seems to work good.”

Antill also said that the kids always point out what animals they drive by. In Wolf Creek’s school district, there’s a lot of rural backroads that students live on she added.

“It isn’t anything to wild except for the kids are always on the look out for wild animals,” she said. “They will yell ‘look at the wild turkeys’ or deer or even baby calves. They also swear they have seen a pelican and a lot more.”

As for weather, Antill said she works her way through her route keeping the safety of the students in mind.

“The school district is really good about keeping our kids and buses in consideration when weather is coming or has happened but sometimes it seems to never fail that there is sunshine at the beginning of our route and before our route is over, we have an inch of snow. We just take our time.”