Kentucky school principal steps up to bring kids home amid shortage of bus drivers

Fancy Farm Elementary School principal Janet Throgmorton
Photo via of Janet Throgmorton

Janet Throgmorton knows that being a principal meant that she would have to wear many hats.

Because of the world’s current situation, the devoted educator was compelled to fulfill a new and essential role.

“Miss Janet,” as her students call her, recently became Fancy Farm Elementary’s newest school bus driver. She stepped up and assumed the role after two of her bus drivers contracted COVID-19, causing a staff shortage.

Two years ago, she got her commercial driver’s license to substitute as a bus driver during field trips. By doing this, she only has to pay for the mileage and not the buses, saving the district’s budget money.

“The first couple of times I drove it was really comical because I’m on the bus as the bell rings, as the kids are dismissed,” she told Good Morning America. “The kids are like, ‘Why are you driving the bus? Do you know how to drive the bus? I say, ‘Yes. I got my license to do it.'”

To keep everyone safe, Miss Janet takes time to disinfect the seats before and after school. Students and staff also sanitize their hands, wear masks, and practice social distancing on the bus. The teachers also take their temperatures.

Principal Janet Throgmorton with her students on the school bus
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“It’s been very difficult for bus drivers, aides, cafeteria workers — it affects every aspect of what we do,” she said. “Although COVID hasn’t affected kids very much, you still consider schools a germ area. We don’t blame them.”

The western Kentucky school has 184 pre-school through sixth-grade students, and Miss Janet is doing everything she can to make them feel safe since the resumption of full, face-to-face classes earlier this year.

2021 marks Miss Janet’s 11th year as principal and 25th overall at Fancy Farm.

“You help where you need to help because that’s what you need to do,” she told the outlet. “Our goal for the entire school year is to have kids in these buildings because we definitely believe that’s where the best learning takes place.”

They’ve also been short of not just of bus drivers but also custodians, so Miss Janet would sometimes help take out the trash. She has also volunteered to serve hot lunches in the cafeteria and picked up students in her own car when they miss the bus. She increased her personal car insurance just to do this.

School principal Janet Throgmorton sanitizing a school bus
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Before they returned to in-person learning, the principal has also made house calls to help remote learners and their guardians with technical difficulties. Many of their students are being raised or cared for by grandparents, and sometimes the technology can be too overwhelming for them.

Those house calls gave Miss Janet the chance to evaluate the internet access, household stability, food safety, and even the mental health of the children and their families.

Having grown up in Wingo, Kentucky, near Fancy Farm, she is well-connected to many people who can provide those necessary resources.

“If a student is in one of our more rural locations and can’t get internet, we will connect them with a church who will allow them to come in and use their WiFi. If someone is hungry, we will connect them to those resources as well,” she told NBC News.

Fancy Farm Elementary School students
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Miss Janet also scheduled appointments for families to visit the school before starting in-person classes. This is to assure them that proper spacing and sanitization protocols will be followed. This includes removing anything without a hardened surface that can be disinfected every night. A lot of furniture didn’t meet these criteria, so the school removed them.

Miss Janet said going above and beyond to fulfill these extra tasks not only benefited the school and the kids; it also helped her form a tighter bond with them.

Sometimes, if we’re lucky enough, we come across a teacher who makes a lasting impact on our lives. Surely, Miss Janet is one of those educators who has made a mark in her students’ lives!

Share this story to celebrate all the dedicated teachers who make the learning experience better for kids during these uncertain times.

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