“School buses are so much a part of our daily lives that it’s hard to believe that they were once a ground-breaking innovation.”
State and local education and transportation leaders gathered yesterday in Oriental to kick off Gov. Roy Cooper’s designation of September as Safe-to-School Month and to mark the 100-year anniversary of the first use of motorized school transportation in North Carolina.
The event highlighted the progress the state has achieved in providing safe school bus transportation. On September 5, 1917, 100 years ago this week, the former Oriental Consolidated School District in Pamlico County started using a motorized bus to take students to and from school for the first time in North Carolina.
The brainchild of Pamlico County Schools Superintendent TB Attmore, the buses could seat 30 and were first driven by Zeb Brinson of Arapahoe. The bus was an instant hit, and was quickly adopted by other rural eastern counties. Previously, many children across the state either rode to school on a horse-drawn wagon, or walked.
North Carolina was one of the first states to adopt the then-cutting-edge technology of motorized vehicles in such a way. The goal was to improve educational opportunities for rural students by making it easier for them to attend centralized schools.
Speakers at the event included Lisa Jackson, Superintendent of Pamlico County Schools, Mark Ezzell, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, Pamlico County Sheriff Chris Davis, and Kevin Harrison, section chief of transportation services for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.State Superintendent Mark Johnson said it’s hard to overstate the importance of school bus transportation in North Carolina.
“School buses are so much a part of our daily lives that it’s hard to believe that they were once a ground-breaking innovation. But they were back in 1917,” Johnson said. “Pamlico County’s school superintendent then, T.B. Atmore, was so proud of his “truck” that he drove it all the way to Raleigh, giving rides around the city to Gov. Thomas Bickett and other state leaders.”
On display was a 1931 Chevrolet bus brought to the event from the Iredell-Statesville school district and the state’s most up-to-date bus, a 2018 Thomas 72-passenger model with three-point seat belts from Carteret County. The original 1917 school “truck” was not preserved.
For many students, the school bus is the only method of transportation to and from school. For those students, the school bus represents more than just a ride; it represents access to educational opportunities.
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