It’s still dark when 7-year-old Jacklyn Tuttle catches the school bus in the mornings.

Tuttle gets on the bus at 6:10 a.m.

Bus driver Marie Guthrie turns on the inside lights as Tuttle climbs on and takes a seat.

She doesn’t bother to remove her pink backpack when she sits down, and as the bus ambles its way down the road she leans against the window in the dark.

After having been on the bus for only a few minutes, Tuttle lies across the seat and is fast asleep.

Tuttle is not the first student on the bus, but she is among the first few who catch the bus at the beginning of the route at the intersection of Finney and South Fork roads and ride nearly an hour to Austin-Tracy Elementary.

Tuttle slept for about 20 minutes before 5-year-old Beth Dallas got on the bus.

Dawn was just beginning to break when Dallas took a seat next to Tuttle and rested her forehead against the seat in front of her and napped the rest of the way to school.

It’s not uncommon for Guthrie to have to wake students up when they arrive at school.

“My little ones, they have to get up early and that’s hard on them,” she said.

Seldom do parents complain about their children having to catch the bus so early, she said.

“They don’t complain, but they don’t like it, especially the little ones,” she said.

Students who attend Austin-Tracy have traditionally caught the bus earlier than students who attend other Barren County elementary schools because of the distance they have to travel,

Bud Tarry, transportation director for the Barren County School District, said.

“We have a number of children who get picked up between 6 a.m. and 6:10 a.m.,” he said. “That’s early in the morning.”

Classes don’t begin at Austin-Tracy until around 7:25 a.m., but students who ride Guthrie’s bus arrive at school around 7:05 a.m. and are there in plenty of time to go to the cafeteria for breakfast before beginning classes.

Not all parents like for their children to catch the bus so early, he said, and in order to avoid the long bus ride they take their children to Red Cross Elementary instead.

“(Long bus rides) are also the reason why some students in the past have gone to South Green,” he said.

Guthrie’s bus route ranks among the longest in the district.

“We’ve got some long routes that run down around the county line,” Tarry said.

The length of the bus route seems to have given Guthrie time to bond with her passengers. The students refer to her as “Miss Marie.”

As the bus wound its way down the road, one student came up to her to tell her Miranda Young had celebrated her birthday while the students were off for Christmas break.

So, before the bus pulled into the parking lot at Austin-Tracy the entire bus sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

“We’re always out of school when she has her birthday,” Guthrie said.

Another student shared with Guthrie that she was wearing a new scarf, and Guthrie told her she thought it was pretty.

Guthrie often refers to the students as “her kids,” and in some ways treats them as if they were her own children.

“I’m proud of my kids,” Guthrie said. “Every year I have a lot of kids in the Beta Club.”

Guthrie has been a school bus driver for 11 years, and during that time she has watched the students mature.

“You get so attached to your little ones,” she said. “You hate to see them grow up.”


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