It was an early dismissal day, so school bus driver Teri McGrath knew she’d be busy. When the bell rang at the Edgartown School and students began to pour out of the building, she headed to the back of her bus (number 122) to help the kids sort themselves into seats.

Soon the noise level had risen considerably as backpacks and lunch boxes were fit underneath the seats, and students scooted into spots next to their friends. Older students filed to the back and kindergartners stayed near the front.

One student stepped on board, checked out the little lost-and-found pile next to the driver’s seat, and picked up her stuffed animal that had been left on the bus the previous day. Ms. McGrath reminded her to put the toy back in its bag, so it wouldn’t get lost again. Other students stacked their violin cases at the front of the bus. A bus monitor boarded, too. Not only was it a half-day of school, but it was a YMCA day, and the bus would be dropping off kids there for afterschool programs. And then number 122 pulled away from the curb and headed out. A smaller bus also pulled away, headed for Chappaquiddick.

George Gamble and Marc Rivers. — Ivy Ashe

The ritual was happening all across the Island. Some buses finished their routes and then headed to the Boys & Girls Club. Some went door-to-door — special education drivers get to know families well because they do pickups at home. Some dropped high school athletes off at the Steamship Authority docks for away games.

Coordinating the entire system of buses is Jimmy Flynn, who has been managing the school transportation system since 2004. Mr. Flynn likens the process to fitting together a puzzle.

“All of the pieces have to fit to make this work,” he said. It’s no easy task to move hundreds of kids around the Island, and yet it is part of the foundation of the entire school system, offering peace of mind to parents (who know their kids are in good hands) and teachers (who know their students will arrive on time).

“These guys, my drivers, whether it be school bus drivers, special education, sports, my guys on the other side [there are three drivers on the Cape who handle field trips and sports events] they make me look good,” said Mr. Flynn, who has been managing the school transportation system since 2004. He started driving in 1984, when he managed Island Transport, which at the time had the contract for the school bus system. Now the school system runs its own fleet.

Mr. Flynn’s day typically begins at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t end until about 7 p.m. Even after the first school drop-offs are completed, there are still two late runs from the high school for students doing extracurriculars.

“That can take me anywhere,” said driver Monique Clermont. “You could be down in Aquinnah, at Moshup’s Trail, you never know.”

But most routes are fixed, and many drivers stay on the same route for years, getting to know older and then younger siblings. In some cases, drivers have been at it so long they meet the next generation.

Leslie Malcouronne, who covers an Oak Bluffs route, has been driving for 30 years. It was a perfect job to have when her own children were young. Her husband drove school buses, too, until he retired, but Mrs. Malcouronne has no plans to stop any time soon.

“I’m now driving kids of kids,” she said. “It’s fun, it’s just fun to see.”

Bus driver Teri Brown checks to see that all her kids are on board. — Ivy Ashe

That’s the first part of being a good bus driver, Mr. Flynn said. “You’ve got to love kids,” he said. “Part of being a bus driver is you’re a parent, you’re a mother, you’re a father, you’re a doctor, you’re a psychologist. These guys wear so many hats.”

Bus drivers are the first people most kids see after leaving for school, so they are the first to notice someone’s bad day. They don’t take it personally if the kid is unfriendly; they know it’s not them.

“You pick up on it,” driver Tony Oliver said. “Everybody has those days.” Mr. Oliver is in his second year driving. Last year, he was on the Aquinnah and Chilmark route, with the earliest departure times. This year, he’s in West Tisbury and Chilmark. The route starts “about a minute after seven,” he said.

“I always like to say at the beginning of the year, good morning,” said driver Marc Rivers, who drives for the Edgartown School in the morning and the high school and Chilmark School in the afternoon. At first, not many returned the greeting, he said.

“But now mostly 80 to 90 per cent will say it back to me,” Mr. Rivers said. “Just having that interaction, I enjoy that part of it.”

Younger students sometimes get confused when they see their drivers out of context.

“The little kids, they think we live in the buses,” Mr. Flynn said.

All drivers must take a school bus driving class offered by Mr. Flynn, and after completion they receive a Class B license.

“It’s funny, it’s easier to drive than my little Toyota, once you get used to it,” Mrs. Malcouronne said. The hardest part is when school is still in session and tourist season begins.

“You’ve got to have your eyes on the kids, out the door, and on the traffic,” she said. “It can be pretty hairy. Safety’s my first concern with the kids.”

“We do the same thing every day,” said Ms. Clermont. “But it’s always an adventure and it’s always different.”