School bus drivers from Salida, Gunnison, Leadville and Cotopaxi tested their skills at the school bus “road-e-o” Monday at the Colorado Department of Transportation facility in Poncha Springs.

Drivers navigated a bus obstacle course, completed their Colorado Department of Education testing and worked with first responders to practice emergency procedures.

The inaugural event was organized by Salida School District Transportation Director Evalyn Parks and was sponsored by Tim Mickey of McCandless Truck Center, who works with Salida School District when it purchases new buses.

Parks said she wanted to make the annual testing fun and add the challenge of the obstacle course, based on the course drivers are required to complete to get their commercial driver’s license.

To make the course more challenging, Parks covered the front side mirrors on the buses used for the skills test.

Drivers had to maneuver their bus through a right turn, alley dock backing and serpentine backing, among other skills.

Following lunch, the bus drivers took their Department of Education written test, which all Colorado school bus drivers must complete annually.

Drivers heard a presentation from Salida Police Officer David Close, one of two school resource officers in the district, about vaping, which has become an issue on school buses recently.

Close said vaping has become an escalating problem among underage users, and he displayed some of the different delivery systems drivers might encounter.

He said the delivery systems change constantly.

He told drivers the same laws that apply to smoking apply to vaping, including the 10-foot limit near a bus stop, and neither is allowed on a bus nor at school.

He also emphasized the legality of vape use. Vaping, as tobacco use, is restricted to those 18 and older.

Close said a first offense will require the student to participate in a “Second Chance” online course designed to educate about vaping and tobacco use.

A second offense would result in a summons to Municipal Court.

The last part of the day was spent practicing emergency procedures.

Officer Sean Hayes made a presentation on live shooter encounters and then demonstrated the procedure the police would have to use to break into a bus through the windows.

Salida Fire Department set up a fire extinguisher demonstration and gave all drivers an opportunity to practice using the device.

Salida firefighters set two of the seats in an old bus on fire to demonstrate how a fire might spread in a bus and then put it out.

The bus is scheduled to be scrapped in Penrose after the demonstration.

Finally, drivers practiced an emergency evacuation of a bus, including having to carry a weighted dummy out of the bus.

Parks said the day was a good, fun challenge for the drivers.

The Buena Vista School District Transportation Department is in transition, and that was why its drivers did not participate, Parks said.

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