X marks the school bus

The in basket: As a South Kitsap school bus turned right while I sat at the Woods Road stop signal on Mile Hill Drive, I noticed a large white X on a black background on its side.

I’d never noticed it before and it seemed vaguely ominous. I subsequently saw other letters of the same kind on other SK buses, and one in Bremerton.

I asked their meaning.

The out basket: Here’s another measure of how far removed from my school days I am at age 68. Jay Rosepepe, transportation director for SK schools, said letters have been on the sides of their buses for about four years, supplementing the numbers that differentiated the buses when I was in school.

They are magnetic and can be moved from bus to bus. It eliminates confusion among the students when a bus has to be pulled out of regular service for maintenance or to carry students out of district, such as for athletics.

Something like it began 15 years ago in the district, when cardboard placards that serve the same purpose were displayed in the bus window or windshield. They got the idea for the magnetized metal ones from Bremerton School District, he said.

They’re used only on the district’s 48 large buses. They already need two letters on about half the buses to avoid duplication, and adding the smaller buses would require three-letter sets. Besides, the close relationship between the drivers and the often-disabled youngsters who ride the small buses reduces possible confusion by itself.

They still use bus numbers, but that’s usually for administrative purposes or in radio communications with the vehicles, he said.

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