There’s few things Tristan Pasciak loves more than school buses.
“I just started researching buses after I saw one and didn’t know about it,” he said.
That initial interest has led the Landstown Middle School seventh-grader to spend hours studying the pieces, parts and protocols needed for operating a school bus.
C2, Thomas, Bluebird, airbrakes – they all became part of Pasciak’s vocabulary.
Last month, he was given the unique opportunity to bring his transportation passion to life.
Each year, the Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Office of Transportation Services hosts its School Bus Roadeo to qualify drivers for the Virginia Association for Pupil Transportation (VAPT) Bus Roadeo. This statewide competition challenges bus drivers’ skills through an obstacle course.
The obstacle course has participants drive through a diminishing clearance, make a right turn and hit a target on the ground at specified points and back in between two rows of cones and stop in certain places on the course.
When VBCPS’s transportation staff found out about Pasciak’s love of buses, they could think of no better fit for a guest judge.
During the event, more than a dozen VBCPS bus drivers gathered to show off their driving prowess. Along the course, Pasciak manned the station where drivers had to maneuver their right tires through two tennis balls, which allowed for less than a two inch gap on either side of the double back tires.
One by one, the buses came though Pasciak’s obstacle, he was intent on catching every tennis ball touched and smiling as buses glided through the course.
As the final score sheets tallied and the winning drivers were getting ready to be announced, the real triumph of the day occurred for Pasciak: He was able to ride through the entire course in a bus driven by transportation supervisor, Chris Sprouse.
Once the course was finished, Pasciak sat in the driver’s seat, and got to open the door, turn on the running lights and work the speakers. He walked the aisle of the bus, looking in each seat, making sure there were no pretend students asleep on the bus.
“My favorite part is the running lights that I just turned on and that the buses can get kids (to school) safely,” he said.
Jay Cotthaus, director of transportation for the school division, said Pasciak got a firsthand look at what being a bus driver is all about.
“I think that day proved that education extends beyond the classroom,” Cotthaus said. “He got to see there is more than just driving the bus and picking up kids. He got the experience of what it takes to be a driver.”
Cotthaus added that most of the administrative staff rarely see students during the day, and this experience helped inspire the team.
“It was a learning experience not only for him but for us,” Cotthaus said. “It was nice to have one of our ‘customers’ see what goes on behind the scenes. I was excited by his enthusiasm…to see the excitement in his eyes was reward enough.”
It was a great day for any bus enthusiast – and one that Pasciak is sure not to forget any time soon.
After all, he made sure to get photographic evidence.
“Mom!,” Pasciak yelled back while walking to his tour on the bus. “Make sure you are taking pictures and putting them on Facebook!”