As the executive director of an independent living community for older adults, Dorcas McGurrin spent time with people approaching the end of their lives.
Now, as the driver of a big yellow school bus, she’s surrounded by those who are just getting started.
“I’ve always loved kids,” says McGurrin, 70, who lives on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, and drives six routes a day for the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District, which serves two towns. “I was the oldest of nine and always around kids. I thought: I learned to drive in a Ford Country Squire station wagon with eight young siblings in the back. How different could it be to drive a 40-foot bus with 50 kids in the back?”
McGurrin began her career in hospital administration, but for 27 years she was executive director of Heatherwood at Kings Way, a 235-unit complex in Yarmouth Port that offers condominium apartments along with services such as meals, transportation and activities for older adults. She managed a $4 million budget, as well as 65 staff and 285 residents, and was on duty pretty much 24/7, including through several blizzards and one hurricane. When she retired in 2016, she thought she’d enjoy the slower pace. Instead, she got bored — “drifting,” as she describes it. When a friend suggested driving a school bus, she was skeptical but decided to give it a shot.
McGurrin’s been driving a full-size school bus since October 2019. Every school day, she navigates three routes to and from the district’s schools, starting at 6:20 a.m. by inspecting her bus and then doing the high school pickups. That’s followed by the middle school and elementary routes, which she usually wraps up by 9:45 a.m., giving her until 1:20 p.m., when she’s back on the bus running the same three routes and taking students home. She finishes about 4:45 p.m., having driven roughly 70 miles.
“The little kids are the last ones on the bus, so in November, December, it’s not uncommon for me to have to wake up kids when we get home because we’re getting home in the dark,” she says.
On a recent school day, McGurrin took a few minutes in between routes to answer questions about what it’s like to drive a bus full of kids.