Summer freedom ends for thousands of students across KC Metro

KMBZ Cover Story: Back to School 101

KMBZ News Staff
August 15, 2018 - 6:53 am

Parents all around the Kansas City area are dealing with milestones, from a child's first day of kindergarten to their first day of college. 

The exclusive KMBZ Cover Story for Wednesday is Back to School 101.

-- A school district's effort to make busing as safe as possible --

It takes more than just great bus drivers to keep kids safe. Just ask the North Kansas City School District. This is the 23rd year that the district has received the Total Excellence Fleet Award from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. 

Every employee, from office staff to mechanics, plays a significant role in safe busing, said Lon Waterman, transportation director.

"I can't say that all districts take this serious, because I believe most of them do, but for us, the seriousness of the safety of kids is paramount; it's the foundation of everything we do here," Waterman said.

Bus driver Brian Hockensmith is in his third year with the district. He says navigating a bus with distracted drivers all around is a real challenge. From his high driving position, he can easily look down into other vehicles.

"I never noticed before I became a driver how many people are driving distracted," Hockensmith said. "It's rare to pass a car that doesn't have a device out, that's not using their device."

Drivers should never pass a school bus that is stopped with its emergency equipment engaged.

Cindy Bultemeier has been a bus driver for about 20 years. She wants drivers to pay attention to the flashing amber lights, which means the bus is about to stop.

"We have students who cross in front of the bus, and there is a process to that," Bultemeier said. "We just don't want kids getting off the bus and running whichever way they want. That is something that the public and the parents need to realize and help us work with their students, so everybody is safe."

-- What teachers wish parents knew -- 

One of the hardest things for some parents is to let go of a five-year-old on his or her first day of school.

"It's okay to cry," Michele Handy teaches kindergarten in the Kansas City area. "It's okay to give those extra hugs and extra kisses."

It is okay for a parent to say goodbye, walk away, and know that their child is going to be fine," Handy said.

Later on, it is very important to instill independence in teenagers, said Jessica Collins, who teaches in high school.

"Just encouraging you student to be a good self advocate and speak up for themselves," Collins said. "(That is) probably one of the best things parents can encouraging their students with."

As children progress from elementary to high school, parents tend to stop communicating with teachers. Encouraging email and other positive types of communication go a long way in high school, Collins said.

-- A dad talks about his perspective as a teacher and a parent -- 

David Kidder taught two at an Olathe elementary school and a year at a middle school before leaving the profession about 20 years ago. Things have changed a lot in those two decades, for teachers and for students, he said.

Kidder has two teenagers in the Shawnee Mission School District. He says teachers have more to deal with today than in his time.

"They get stretched so thin, and while their pay has gotten better relative to how much they have to do, I don't think it's increased well enough," Kidder said.

In today's world, teachers are are ushered into the world of gender politics, Kidder said. His daughter came home from school Monday and told him she was asked to fill out a paper declaring a preference.

"She told us they received a form where they could indicate whether there was a pronoun preference," Kidder said.

As a dad, Kidder sees young people wading through the difficult social world of the internet, where bullying is not a face-to-face endeavor. They see and hear so much on television and online that was not available to kids decades ago.

"A kid could come into school and be a kid, and not have to worry about what else might be going on on the internet, while they're sitting in class and just trying to learn," Kidder said.

So, knowing what it's like to raise kids, and what it's like to deal with nervous and demanding parents, Kidder hopes he brings some empathy into his relationships with his kids' teachers.

"Just being more understanding of what it is that they have to deal with every day," Kidder said.

-- Saying goodbye to a college freshman -- 

Amy O'Bryan says she is not worried that her daughter Allison will make bad choices or get in with the wrong crowd when she heads off to Emporia State Univeristy in just a couple of days.

"We used to feel like we were at odd when she was just a teenager, but now it kind of feels like we're becoming friends, and now she's leaving," Amy said.

Allison is ready to make the move.

"I'm more excited for my career -- I just want to get the work done," Allison said. "The classes will be fun, since they're aimed towards something I want to do."

As she packs to leave, one concern for Allison is the size of her dorm room.

"It's pretty small," she laughs. "I'm really concerned about the size of the dresser."

The biggest shock for Allison is that grades did not matter much when it came to getting scholarships.

"You would need a lot of recommendations from teachers, it would be better if you were in camps and you helped out at your church, or other various activities, which I didn't have a lot of time for, between sports and my job," Allison said. "My good grades didn't get me as far as I thought they would."

Amy was asked if she had any advice for parents of younger kids. She said try to attend as many events as possible. 

"I always tried to be there for every play -- volleyball, I was there for the whole thing," Amy said. "I think that's what's important, that you have the time for your kids, and you spend the time whenever they want you in the crowd the most."

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