Mr. bus driver
Head Start Program gets bus driver and doesn't have to cancel classes

Darren Campbell
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 02/98) - Reanna Erasmus admits she was panicking last week.

And with good reason. Erasmus, coordinator of the Aboriginal Head Start program in Ndilo, was very close to cancelling classes for the program.

The problem: no bus driver. And without the bus driver there was no way to get the 33 children who are enroled in the program and live all over Yellowknife to school.

"I didn't think it would be that hard (to get a driver) because a lot of people are out of work," said Erasmus.

But it was and that left Erasmus in a tough position. The bus drivers she had last year had left to work for BHP Diamonds. Even after advertising for bus drivers all summer, Erasmus was having no luck.

However, after word got around about the program's situation last week, Erasmus started getting calls and they eventually found a bus driver, rescuing the classes from delay.

"I was panicking because the children really wanted to come to school," said Erasmus. "But the kids were here this morning, they are happy to be here and they are excited."

The Head Start program is designed to give aboriginal children an early start in education before they enter the school system. The Ndilo program is set up for children ages four and five.

The man who solved Erasmus' problem was Grant O'Connor. Although he is now mulling over a nice offer to do the driving full-time, originally he only planned to do it for this week.

"I wasn't going let those kids be stranded on their first day of school," said O'Connor.

After Erasmus went public with the problem, she said she got several calls from members of the community volunteering to drive the children to school. To operate a school bus, you need what is called a Bus Driver Endorsement.

The problem for the Ndilo program was that exams for the needed endorsement were not set to happen until the middle of October.

Erasmus noted is was this long wait to get the exam may have been one reason why it was so hard to find a new driver.

"It's a real problem when they are booking (exams) that far away," said Erasmus.

Luckily for Erasmus and the 33 children in the program, those problems have now been solved.