Eye on ECCS: Carver Elementary Bus Circles

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NOTE: Occasionally throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may be to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well. So, keep your Eye on ECCS!

When Carver Elementary’s Bus 54 students walk into the flex learning space known as Lower Creek, they shout with joy in recognition of the man waiting for them there. 

“Chuck!”

“Chucky!”

“Chuck E. Cheese!”

And he recognizes each and every one of them, too. Chuck calls out their names as they enter the space.

Who is Chuck? He is their bus driver. But to the students and staff of Carver Elementary, he’s more than just a bus driver.  He’s a trusted adult and part of their school community.

That has been the goal of the bus circles Carver Elementary leadership have hosted with drivers and students this school year. Humanizing one another and making connections. The adult at the front of the bus isn’t just the driver now. And the students going to and from school aren’t just students.

“We’re about building a school family, a safe place for kids to learn, and that includes when our kids are riding to and from school,” Carver principal Ryan Finke said.

Carver Elementary was seeing a number of bus referrals for behavior so Finke and dean of students Chuck Zemek met with the drivers at the district transportation center to ask how they could help.

“Part of our conscience discipline talks we have with students is our ‘wish you wells,’ so we started having bus circles with the drivers and students. Everyone wears a name tag. We have the kids all sign a book, ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,’ and we give each driver that signed book at the end,” Finke said.  ‘Wish you wells’ provide a way for children to offer caring and empathy to each other and others within their communities.

“We’ve had really positive feedback from the drivers. They’ve really enjoyed them. I think some were skeptical at first, but they’ve seen the difference,” Zemek said.

Carver Elementary recently went an entire month without a referral. 

Zemek and school counselor Ann Varpness have led the bus circles, completing the first round with all drivers on Feb. 22. They will continue to monitor data the rest of the school year with a plan to do a second round of circles next fall.

“Chuck’s job is to keep you safe. What’s your job?” Zemek said to the students. “To help him keep us safe!” the students replied.

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