Today is Election Day.
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s the day the kids of First Student Bus 35 elect a mayor and governor. Voting starts early with the first pickups and continues until this afternoon when the last “voter” gets off the bus. There’s no chance of stuffing the ballot box, as driver Bre Paine knows each of her kids and, besides, she’ll be handing out the ballots.
This has been a six-week campaign that included declarations – 16 Cedar Hill School grade 1 to 5 students threw their hats into the ring – a primary and, naturally, campaigning on the part of the six students in the election. The campaign is evident from the interior of the bus, festooned with hand drawn signs and fun little stuffed animals; there’s a donkey and an elephant for sure.
But there’s no political divide. This campaign is about bus safety. It’s also about education and having fun. Paine planned it that way.
“On every bus you’re going to have problems. My way with kids is to educate them and have fun with it,” she said.
To engage students, Paine comes up with games that tie into different events during the year such as the Super Bowl. There’s a student of the month.
Apart from her strict attention to safety, such as being seated at all times when the bus is moving, Paine doesn’t tolerate bullying. Kids know they will get called out, maybe even ejected from the bus.
“The goal is to improve the bus; let’s make Bus 35 even greater,” she says of the campaign.
As Paine makes bus runs for Toll Gate High School and Our Lady of Mercy, those students will also have the chance to vote today.
The candidates have risen to the challenge. They have chosen campaign managers, come up with slogans and promoted their candidacies at meet and greets. If elected governor, Cole Preston promises to bring in his disco ball, tape it to the bus ceiling, and have dance music every Friday. Paine has agreed to the music but, of course, there won’t be any dancing. Kids can’t leave their seats.
“We can swing around our arms like this,” says Cole, swaying in his seat.
Jordyn Mailloux promises homemade cookies for everyone if she’s elected governor. Grace Marchand would implement more bus safety programs to make Bus 35 “exceptional.”
Paine has held several bus campaigns since she started driving. She purposely avoids presidential election years as she feels they can become partisan and there’s no party politics to bus elections.
There are perks for the winners. The mayor and governor will get to pick their seat, which will be reserved under the office they have been elected to. She is also thinking of backpacks embroidered with the office.
The emphasis is all on bus safety.
“These are tanks, the size of an elephant weighing 17 tons,” she said of the bus.
First grader Brenton Zagryn knows that and the need to pay attention and be careful.
“You never, never cross in front of the bus unless Miss Bre lets you,” he said.
Paine is pleased with Brenton’s knowledge of the rules and his campaign for mayor. But she wasn’t showing a display of favorites. She won’t be voting, however, as the one running the campaign she may give a couple of votes to the candidates for their creative campaign posters and slogans.