KCSD school bus driver retiring after nearly three decades driving Merrill, Malin students
MERRILL, Ore. - “So will you ever be our bus driver again?” A young boy asked the question as Merrill Elementary School students boarded Davida Croy’s school bus last week.
“No,” Croy told them, “but it’s not goodbye. I’ll still see you.”
After nearly three decades of driving the traditional yellow school bus for Merrill and Malin families, Davida Croy has picked up and dropped off students on her Merrill and Lost River route for the last time. She officially retired Oct. 23.
The 65-year-old started driving bus in 1991 and is on her third generation of riders, driving the grandchildren of some of her first riders.
“To drive school bus, you have to have respect for and like kids,” she said as she waited for students from Merrill Elementary School to get seated. “Kids are pretty good if you give them a chance and let them know what you expect.”
Croy is among 80 bus drivers who work for the Klamath County School District, transporting around 3,800 students and covering more than 6,100 miles a day. Annually, district bus drivers cover 1.3 million miles, including out-of-area trips for sporting and academic events.
Shawn Snoozy, the school district’s transportation supervisor, said Croy was always cheerful and a good influence on the students.
“She was a big part of our bus family, and we’ll miss her,” he said.
The district needs more school bus drivers and is current recruiting. The KCSD school board in September approved $2 an hour base pay raise for bus drivers. Years ago, when Croy started, many of the drivers were parents who wanted to work part-time while their kids were in school. Today, Snoozy said, most drivers are retirees so it’s hard to retain them for long periods of time. Another bus driver retires at the end of December, and two positions are currently open.
Croy is an example of how a school bus driver is an integral part of the education community, interacting with students at the beginning and the end of their school day.
“People who drive for us have an opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives,” Snoozy said. “They’re the first person kids see in the morning and the last person they see before they go home.”
Croy knows every student and many of their parents. The first time she met Lost River Junior-Senior High School’s current principal, Jamie Ongman, he was a 3-year-old, tagging along with his mother who coached high school volleyball.
On her current route, she transports around 50 elementary and high school students, covering 92 miles a day.
“I will miss the kids,” she said as she dropped off her last student, but since she lives only two blocks from the school, she’ll still be around. “The kids are very, very good out here – and polite -- because they know I’m going to see their mom at the ball game.”
Croy grew up in Klamath Falls. She moved with her late husband, Carl, to Merrill in 1987, where they raised eight children and farmed, growing hay, grain, potatoes and horseradish, and operated a long-haul truck driving business. Croy drove the Malin school bus route for 13 years before transferring to Merrill.
“I would drive bus in the morning, go to the panhandle and load horseradish, and return to drive bus in the afternoon,” she recalled.
The couple sold the farm in 2005, and then worked for Parks-Hickey Hay Sales in Merrill for 16 years. Carl, who passed away two years ago, later joined Croy driving school bus to supplement their income (the students called him Captain Carl). Both would drive for school activities and sporting events.
Over the 28 years, Croy had her share of unexpected school bus adventures, from snowstorms and road closures to breakdowns and broken toes. She broke her toe riding one of the rides at the Redding Waterslides during an academic field trip. On a biology field trip to Lincoln City, she was the bus driver as well as a parent chaperone, and discovered on the whale watching trip, that yes, she gets seasick.
As she drove her routes for the last time, she talked about future plans. First up is a trip to Montana. Her bucket list includes taking the boat tour at Crater Lake National Park, riding the Crater Lake Zipline, and going on an Alaskan cruise with her sisters.
But she will still be part of the Merrill community. “The kids remember you,” she said. “Students I drove long ago still come up and say ‘hi’ and give me a hug.”