School district honors custodian, bus driver

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The director of transportation and custodial activities for Pawhuska Public Schools recently named the school district’s custodian and bus driver of the year for the 2020-21 school year.

Dean Hix said Lynn Pearson, the Custodian of the Year, has worked for Pawhuska Public Schools for five years. She is currently the custodian for Pawhuska Elementary School (the upper elementary), is responsible for overall cleanliness and was tasked with disinfecting surfaces to protect against COVID-19.

“She’s a trooper,” Hix said, commenting that Pearson routinely goes above and beyond what is required of her. During the 2020-21 school year, she would donate an hour a day to the school system after her work hours were completed, he said.

“You don’t get those people very often who do that,” Hix said.

Hix also said Jason Lauderdale was the school district’s Bus Driver of the Year. Lauderdale has been with Pawhuska Public Schools for six years. He drove the rural Bowring bus route last year. The bus has to leave each day at 5 a.m. to make its appointed rounds.

Hix said Lauderdale has a great attitude and is quick to volunteer to drive other routes, as needed.

In regard to vehicles used for student transportation, Hix said the school district has just received one of two non-CDL (non-Commercial Driver’s License) buses it is purchasing. The 14-passenger bus will be used to transport athletes, he said. A second non-CDL bus will be provided to the district once it has been manufactured, he said.

Hix said the non-CDL buses, which can be driven by school personnel who do not possess a Commercial Driver’s License, became a needed acquisition due to a new state legal provision, which took effect July 1, banning the use of vans or transit wagons to transport students.

Hix said Pawhuska Public Schools also recently acquired two Chevrolet Suburbans, and he is interested in finding an activity bus with a capacity for transporting 77 or 88 persons. The cost for activity buses is running much too high right now, he said. Hix recalled the last activity bus the district bought cost about $96,000, but similar vehicles are running about $150,000 right now.

“I don’t feel comfortable spending that kind of money on a bus right now,” Hix said. As Pawhuska Public Schools prepares for the 2021-22 school year, which begins for students on Thursday, Aug. 19, Hix said the district has eight route buses and a backup for each.

The district will benefit from having hired new teachers who have Commercial Driver’s Licenses, but Pawhuska and other school districts are always looking for persons willing to volunteer to be substitute bus drivers, he said.

Hix added that Pawhuska Public Schools has plenty of custodial supplies needed to respond to any resurgence of COVID-19 in the community.

“We’ve got the stuff, and so it’s not going to throw us behind,” he said. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the district’s facilities, he said.