For more than 70 years, Missoula area students have been served by Beach Transportation school buses, and Wednesday, August 28, marks the beginning of another school year of service.

One day before school starts, Beach Transportation General Manager Bob Mitchell said that a new computer program makes it easy for parents to find the bus stop closest to their home.

"The school district purchased a program last year called Transfinder," Mitchell said. "This program has helped us program routes, and it's also helped parents and kids understand where their bus stop is. So, if you go to either the Missoula School District One website, or our Beach Transportation website, you'll come to the 'find your bus stop' part of that program, and all you have to do is type in your address, and your bus information will pop up immediately."

Mitchell said safety is their number one priority, both inside and outside of the bus.

"There are 10 rules posted in every school bus, and six of those rules deal with what is going on outside of the school bus," Mitchell said. "We ask the public to understand that when the amber lights are flashing on the school bus, it is preparing to stop. Then, when the red lights are flashing and the stop sign is out, we're loading students, so the law requires traffic to stop and wait."

Mitchell said Beach buses start early each school day and travel far outside Missoula to pick up students.

"We open up at 5 a.m. every day, and we travel up to 35 miles out, all the way to Beavertail Hill and to the Clearwater Junction," Mitchell said. "We run about 75 buses every morning, and pick up about 3,800 kids. So, we ask the general public to look out for those kids. It's important that we're all working together for their safety."

Beach Transportation General Manager Bob Mitchell