OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - They got an extra two weeks to enjoy their summer. But on Monday, students in Ocean Springs headed back to class, and some got a big surprise. They sat side-by-side with the superintendent and other district leaders on the school bus. The district started this new tradition to welcome students back to school.
"Good morning! How are you?" greeted Dr. Bonita Coleman-Potter as she walked up to a group of students.
It's not every day that you see the superintendent catching the school bus. This year, Dr. Bonita Coleman-Potter decided to ride along with some students who were headed to Pecan Park Elementary School.
"Good morning! Hey buddy. How are you?" she asked a student as he boarded the bus.
Eight other district leaders, including the assistant superintendents, athletic director, and business manager, each took a ride on different bus routes.
"We think it's an excellent way to begin the year. And not only does it show everyone that we're in with the team spirit, but it also, hopefully, give parents a sense of assurance that when you put your child on the bus with one of the cabinet members, they are in really good hands," said Potter.
"Our K-3 students, it can also be a little intimidating. So hopefully, if they see a smiling face and hear a welcoming voice, they'll be a little bit more at ease," she added.
When asked what they think about having the superintendent on the bus, one boy said, "I think it's cool."
Another boy said, "Pretty awesome."
During the 20 minute ride, Potter took the opportunity to reinforce bus safety rules and learn first hand what the drivers deal with every day.
"I was not aware that she was going to be riding. It was fun. It was great. Anytime you have somebody on the bus helping with the kids in any situation, it's better, "said bus driver Rob Eldred.
Potter also got a chance to meet the parents face-to-face at each bus stop.
"We were surprised and delighted and I know the kids felt really special that they had such a great welcoming when they got on the bus this morning. So it started their year off great," said Ocean Springs parent Alison Campbell.
Potter created some back-to-school memories of her own, by taking a "selfie" with the young riders.
"Same way it felt as I was going to kindergarten, same excitement, and we truly believe that this is the best year ever," said Potter.
About 3,000 Ocean Springs students ride the bus every morning, and there is the same number of bus riders in the afternoon. This year, some students will feel more comfortable, because the district just purchased three air-conditioned buses.