School is in session in this million square foot classroom. The assignment? Turn a big donut of steel into a school bus. It's part science class, part art. And a part of the lives of nearly 24 million kids who ride a bus each year.
So there's no time to drift off during this lesson. "We can make a bus in a couple of days." says our tour guide Jay McDuffie.
Along the way came some hard lessons in the business. Seats were one of the first things to rust because drivers hose out the buses. So these are specially coated. Countless pieces of steel have to be bent or stamped out. Lasers cut the thicker pieces. And thousands of rivets, 6,000 per bus, need to be shot into place to hold the shell together.
This rib cage is one of the most important parts. "We call that the circle of love cause it houses our children."
Then comes Jay's favorite part. One worker backs the frame of a bus under the body, and a new bus is born. In fact, a bus rolls off this assembly line about every 20 minutes, showing off it's famous school bus yellow paint job and ready for the road. "Studies show yellow is highest visible color in the morning and in the evening."
Buses have come a long way since horse drawn wagons and pig trucks were used to haul kids to school. But the name on these buses still dates back to the 1920's.
"The founder saw some kids on a school bus that were happy and singing, and back then a popular song was the Blue Bird of Paradise, so the name stuck."
And so since 1927, Blue Bird buses have been rolling down the highway, and can be found in 50 states and 46 countries. So as the kids board the bus this year, see if it is a Blue Bird. After all, it's nest was right up the road in Fort Valley, Georgia.
With today's safety standards, school buses are regarded as the safest vehicle on the road. And each year you can find nearly a half a million of them taking children to school around the country.
Fort Valley is on Highway 341 just northwest of Perry, in Peach County.