MACCRAY bus driver who died Tuesday was loved by kids
Bus driver Jean Waltz was remembered fondly at MACCRAY Public Schools Wednesday as a much-loved bus driver and former school paraprofessional. Waltz was found unresponsive in her bus in Tyler Tuesday. She had been waiting in the bus while the MACCRAY girls basketball team played Russell-Tyler-Ruthton.
CLARA CITY — Jean Waltz was remembered at MACCRAY Public Schools Wednesday as a much-loved bus driver, the kind who would receive piles of Christmas gifts from the kids on her route.
And while remembering Waltz, the district offered support and counseling to the members of the girls basketball team. Team members had returned to their bus after playing Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Tuesday night in Tyler to find Waltz unresponsive.
Resuscitation attempts at Avera Tyler Hospital were unsuccessful, and she was later pronounced dead.
MACCRAY Superintendent Sherri Broderius said Thursday that she was proud of how the team and their coaches handled the situation.
“I’m so proud of them for stepping into action and making phone calls for help,” she said. “One of them called (Activities Director Jim Trulock) right away.”
The team’s three coaches — Dana Johnson, Shaun Condon and Bryce Olson — stayed with their players and made sure they were safe and on their way home before they turned to figuring out how they would get themselves back home. Tyler is more than 70 miles from Clara City.
“It speaks to their priorities,” Borderius said.
Players were sent home with team parents. Those whose parents had not been at the game rode with another family.
Borderius said it was a relief when Trulock called and told her, “the girls are all with a parent and all buckled up and headed home.”
The coaches returned home in a van loaned to them by RTR Schools.
RTR officials helped with getting the visiting team members on the road and put the bus in their heated bus barn.
“They have been so helpful to us,” Broderius said. The RTR superintendent called the next day to see if there was anything else they could do, too, she added.
Palmer Bus Co., which has provided transportation for the district since 1997, was also helpful during and after the incident. DuHoux, manager at the company’s Clara City garage, said Thursday morning he didn’t want to make any comments.
Broderius said she met with the staff Wednesday morning to let them know what had happened. Waltz was a paraprofessional at the high school in the past, and some staff members knew her.
On Wednesday, the school brought in five counselors to meet with the team, and also arranged for one of the coaches who is a teacher to be able to spend time with them.
The girls had a chance to vent, reminisce and hopefully begin to move forward, Broderius said. They made some plans for ways to honor Waltz.
And they had their usual Wednesday night practice. “That’s normal for them, so, to have a good practice, get out there and move and stretch, that was another way of keeping their lives normal,” she said.
Waltz drove teams to a lot of extracurricular events, Broderius said. “When you do that, you really get to know the kids, and the kids get to know the driver.”
One comment she heard Wednesday was, “You should have seen how many Christmas gifts she got from the kids who rode her bus route.”
Broderius called it a testament to who Waltz was, adding that she was the kind of person she wants representing MACCRAY.
Bus drivers are the first people connected to the school that kids see in the morning and at the end of the day, she said.
“It’s something we appreciate when I hear a story like that from somebody about the appreciation kids show a driver; that’s what we want to hear,” she said.
The Tyler Police Department, Tyler Ambulance and Tyler Fire Department responded Tuesday to assist in CPR and to transport Waltz to Avera Tyler Hospital, where life-saving efforts were unsuccessful.
It’s common for bus drivers to wait in a bus and keep it warm during out-of-town events.
"After reviewing the school bus camera, when there is light it appears there is nothing out of the ordinary with the deceased individual. There is no visible activity on camera again during the dark until first responders arrive," Tyler Interim Police Chief Alexander Anderson wrote in a statement.
The cause of death is pending an autopsy review by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office.