City Schools of Decatur bus driver calls students and families to offer support during COVID-19
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Decatur, GA – When Jill VanMatre, a parent of two City Schools of Decatur (CSD) students, listened to her voicemail last Friday, March 26, she got a message that surprised her. A call had come from her children’s bus driver, Danyelle Knox.
With the City Schools of Decatur (CSD) closed for the remainder of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Knox has been calling families from her bus route – route 32 for Talley Street Elementary School – to check in on them. Knox even calls the families of students who ride her bus less regularly – including VanMatre’s children, 11-year-old Clover and 9-year-old Miles.
“I was just calling to check on you guys, to check in on Clover and Miles,” Knox’s message said. “I know that this is a challenging time for a lot of people, and I just wanted to check in on my kids and see how they were doing. Let them know that I miss them, that I’m thinking about them and that everything will be okay in time.”
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Knox, a native of Atlanta, has worked as a bus driver with CSD for a little over three years, she said. She originally got into the transportation industry to complete her degree in communications and media studies from Clayton State University. Now, Knox enjoys studying the relationship between communication and passenger transportation.
Knox’s background in communications was a part of why she decided to call families from her bus route.
“Part of this for me is understanding the importance of communication and the role it has in fostering stronger communities,” she said. “Kids need to know that the adults in their lives really care about them, especially with everything going on with the coronavirus.”
Mostly, though, Knox thinks her purpose can be summed up in one word: love. She believes her conversations spread love and let students know that they are cared for by many people.
“Growing up is not easy, so I think it’s important for the kids to know that they’re loved and they’re being thought about,” she said. “I take a personal approach with my kids, and I’m really interested in their lives.”
The love that Knox wanted to spread made its way around to the families she spoke with. For VanMatre’s kids, hearing the message from their bus driver meant a lot.
“Knox was a light in a dark place,” VanMatre said. “We are scared, and alone – not able to see family during this time – and we are so caught up in our own insecurities and fears. Ms. Knox offered a bit of warmth and love at such a perfect time. This speaks volumes of the type of person she is – caring for others without expecting anything in return. It gives me so much comfort to know I am putting my kids in the right person’s hands and that they are well taken care of.”
Stacie Buckley, a Decatur resident whose daughter Charlotte, 9, rides Knox’s bus route, said her daughter’s face “lit up like Christmas” when she heard from Knox.
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“Having an unexpected delight, and knowing the lovely woman who we are used to seeing daily, was just such a highlight,” Buckley said. “I’ve been searching for good news stories during this time, and this was us, living one.”
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Knox gained a reputation for connecting with families on her bus route. Beth Krakow, a mother of two with one son, William, at Talley Street Elementary School, believes Knox’s calls were more meaningful knowing Knox is always that caring.
“I don’t think it’s just the call that was meaningful, though of course, it is,” Krakow said. “It’s that Knox is consistently kind, thoughtful and wants the best for our children and families.”
Buckley also recognizes this constant kindness in Knox. According to her, Knox learned all of the students’ names within the first week, along with their little siblings who come to the bus stop.
Knox knows that the connection with the students on her bus route extends beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
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“Even pre-COVID 19, I’m always invested in my kids and always asking how they are,” she said. “If someone’s not happy, I wanna know what that sad face is about. COVID-19 is just another challenge we’re having in the school year, and I plan on reaching back out to them in a couple of weeks and checking back in.”
In addition, Knox wants to make sure that all of the students from her bus route to know they are not forgotten, even if she hasn’t been able to talk to them directly yet.
For now, like everyone dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Knox is hanging in there. Although the pandemic has proven to be a difficult time, she has tried to remain grateful for the positive things in her life.
“We’re all limited in our own ways in this time, but I’m doing okay,” she said. “I count the little things, the things that matter the most, like good health, friendship, and family. Like many people, I’m feeling the impacts, but I’m quite grateful for my parents, my friends, the community that I have and to City Schools of Decatur – they’ve been really great about supporting employees.”
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