Transportation - District Administration District Administration Media Thu, 27 Jun 2024 13:30:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Reimagining transportation: 3 ways to conquer chronic absenteeism Thu, 30 May 2024 18:48:50 +0000 While potential solutions to the absenteeism crisis are varying and complex, perhaps the most basic is optimizing the way we get kids to and from school.

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Among the many crises facing the American education system, chronic absenteeism has perhaps become the most salient and complex. Unaddressed and unabated, chronic absenteeism renders attempts at addressing all other educational challenges futile.

The impacts of chronic absenteeism go far beyond academic performance—negatively impacting students’ opportunities to build friendships and become active in their communities, as well as missing out on resources and other educational system safety nets such as free meals and healthcare.

While potential solutions to the absenteeism crisis are varying and complex, perhaps the most basic is reimaging and optimizing the way we get kids to and from school. Plenty of research confirms the inextricable link between absenteeism rates and access to safe, reliable school transportation. In 2023, a survey of school administrators found that nearly three-quarters saw a correlation between access to transportation and school attendance.

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Researchers at Wayne State University reported that Detroit parents cited transportation as “by far the most frequent and pervasive barrier to attendance.” Another study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that “children who took the school bus to kindergarten had fewer absent days over the school year and were less likely to be chronically absent compared with children who commuted to school in any other way.”

But if solving our chronic absentee challenges is as simple as increasing school bus service, why hasn’t that happened? As The Washington Post reported last year, chronic driver shortages, general budget constraints, increases in personal car ownership and usage and districts needing to reallocate school transportation expenditures to electrify fleets amid regulatory pressures are all making it difficult for schools to meet needs with school buses alone.

Despite these challenges, there are still several ways that districts can expand access to safe, reliable transportation and chip away at the chronic absenteeism crisis.

The first is to optimize existing routes using new technologies like AI. Despite facing many of the same challenges as other districts, including bus driver shortages and budget cuts, Colorado Springs’ District 11 was able to reroute their existing bus service using AI, cutting their total bus routes in half, doubling their bus utilization rate, increasing pay for their drivers, saving 40% in future capital cost projections and cutting their emissions by nearly a third.

The second is to focus on providing safe, reliable transportation options for students with the highest rates of absenteeism: those who are experiencing homelessness or in foster homes, live in poorer or rural communities far from their school or suffer from disabilities. Many of these student groups are entitled to transportation, but existing options can leave them waiting days, or weeks, for a ride. Focusing on transportation that can be set up quickly is imperative to ensure these students are attending school without interruption.

Particularly for students from low-income families, limited transportation options and distance from school can make getting to school more challenging, exacerbating existing social inequalities. Students from higher-income families are much more likely to be driven to school by a parent or guardian – or have families that own a vehicle in the first place. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 70% of children from low-income families rely on the school bus as their primary school transportation, while 50% of children living above the poverty line take a private vehicle. And while 99% of families living above the poverty line own at least one vehicle, 20% of low-income families own none.

In 2023, students experiencing homelessness reportedly faced the highest rates of chronic absenteeism. The uncertainty around where they may stay night-to-night presents a challenge around school bus routing and consistent transportation to school. Both our school system and the life circumstances our students deal with daily are growing more complex. To best support the most at-risk students, we must focus on designing transportation systems that are flexible and nimble enough to accommodate their needs.

The third is to seek out alternative solutions to fill the gaps left by buses. School districts across the country have had significant success deploying unique transportation solutions, particularly for students most at risk of absenteeism.

In Fresno, California, Fort Miller Middle School petitioned the school board to provide a van to supplement traditional forms of transportation and ensure that students get to school safely, which led to an average daily attendance increase of nearly 2 percentage points. In Riverside, California, the school district increased attendance rate for students living in foster care from 29% to 78.6% by using supplemental transportation solutions.

Many cities have opted to give students fare cards covering the cost of using public transportation to get to and from school, which has proven to be an effective alternative for older students living with easy access to those systems.

Other districts have petitioned their cities to make walking to school safer for kids who live nearby through installing new crosswalks, stop signs, bike lanes and speed bumps, for instance.

No transportation method is one-size-fits-all. But by offering their students a variety of ways to get to school, school districts can take great strides in closing the gap and minimizing chronic absenteeism.


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TGIF time-saver: More buses are going green; team teaching endorsed Thu, 30 May 2024 14:35:57 +0000 New this week: Uvalde families of victims agreed on a $2 million settlement with the city, districts are getting major bus upgrades and team-based teaching might be the solution to shortages.

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Last week, 19 families of Uvalde school shooting victims agreed on a $2 million settlement with the city in addition to requiring improvements in their local police department. This includes a new “fitness for duty” standard, enhanced police training protocol and increased communication with families about the safety risk officers face as gun violence remains so prominent.

Now, the families have announced further lawsuits against Instagram’s parent company, Meta, citing claims that it allowed advertising by the manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the Uvalde school shooting. Activision Blizzard, the company that owns the “Call of Duty” franchise, was also included in this lawsuit from the families. According to the lawsuit, the Uvalde, Parkland and Sandy Hook shooters played the popular video game leading up to their assaults.

Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the AR-15 used in the Uvalde school shooting, is also being sued. “There is a direct line between the conduct of these companies and the Uvalde shooting,” Josh Koskoff, a partner at law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, said in a statement.

Safety, of course, remains a top priority for most district leaders. Hop on over to this podcast episode where we chat with safety expert and President of the National School Safety and Security Services Ken Trump about what administrators can do to mitigate risks.

School buses get a makeover

Also this week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the recipients of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2023 Clean School Bus Program competition, which awards 530 school districts nearly $900 million to replace older, diesel fuel school buses that pose health risks. Schools will be using the rebates to purchase more than 3,400 clean school buses, most of which will be electric. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Weekly insight

I know it’s summer for most of you, so I gathered some timely research that could be useful as you prep for the 2024-25 school year.

Many of you likely operate leveraging one-teacher, one-classroom models. There’s no shame in that, considering how difficult it is to hire and retain sufficient staff post-pandemic. That being said, it may be in your best interest to dive into team teaching.

This report from the Center for Reinventing Public Education showcases early outcomes from the Next Education Workforce (NEW) team-based models in Mesa, Arizona. Here’s what they found:

  • Higher retention rates: Teachers—especially new educators—in these models are more likely to remain at their schools.
  • Longer career plans: Educators plan to stay in the profession for at least five years.
  • Increased satisfaction: They’re more likely to recommend teaching to a friend.
  • Improved evaluations: Ratings are higher compared to those in non-team-based classrooms.

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To that end, 54% of teachers say they’re considering leaving the profession over the next two years, according to a report released this spring from K12 Insight. By now, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing that, so what should you do?

The researchers suggest creating a work environment where educators want to work and thrive. However, according to K12 Insight’s poll, only 52% of school employees say their district recognizes them for high-quality work and accomplishments. The extensive report offers various strategies and solutions to this issue.

New from DA

Hot off the press, we’ve just announced our “Top 100 Influencers in Education,” which you can find in the latest magazine issue. You’re likely to recognize several national pioneers in education, including some fellow superintendents who are doing incredible work for their students.

We’ve also released another episode of the “Talking Out of School Podcast” where we sit down with filmmaker Tiffany Shlain about her new documentary “The Teen Brain.” The film dives into neuroscience to help parents and teachers better understand the upsides of an intense period of growth and development for students.

And just when you thought you could get through a piece without any mention of artificial intelligence, think again. I recently spoke with Santa Ana Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Almendarez about how he and his communications team use AI to create video messages to the community in multiple languages.

In this video, you can see Almendarez communicating in perfect Spanish, a language he’s not fluent in. Thanks, AI!


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Bus staffing and routing problems leave districts scrambling for solutions Fri, 16 Feb 2024 15:42:57 +0000 North Carolina's Durham Public Schools was closed on Monday due to a lack of available drivers. Another district is potentially cutting routes dramatically to compensate for staff shortages.

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Over the past few years, K12 education has undergone many changes, prompting many who work in the industry to rethink their career choices. That includes superintendents who have become overwhelmed by the growing complexities of the job, teachers who can no longer teach a classroom of 30 students alone due to behavior issues—and bus drivers.

A December blog post from the National Education Association outlines some of the driving factors behind the bus staffing shortages that continue to plague school districts across the country. The teachers union highlights recent research from the Economic Policy Institute, which revealed that hourly wages only grew by 4.9% between 2019 to 2022, a welcome change but still lagging behind the median worker wage growth, which was 5.7%.

However, the average bus driver only earned about $20 an hour in 2022, 16.8% less than the median wage for all workers.

Headaches for districts persist

As a result of this staffing crisis, some districts are forced to cut bus routes to compensate. Tennessee’s Cheatham County Schools, for instance, canceled bus routes last week. It’s an issue that isn’t new for the district, either, WSMV reports.

The district was also forced to cancel routes during the fall semester, too, as a result of staffing shortages.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience,” the district said in a Facebook post. “Families will need to arrange other means of transportation to get their children to and from school both in the morning and afternoon on Friday, February 9, Monday, February 12 and Tuesday, February 13.”

Similarly, North Carolina’s Durham Public Schools canceled school entirely on Monday “due to absences within our transportation,” according to a news release from the district.

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Kentucky’s Jefferson County Public Schools is potentially reducing bus routes to ease issues caused by staffing shortages, which would result in some 16,000 students losing bus services next year, WLKY reports. The revised bus routes would transport only students to their “resides schools,” one of 15 schools that are organized in three geographical networks that serve primary residential addresses, according to the district’s website.

The district is currently weighing three options for next year’s bus transportation:

  1. Requiring buses to provide transportation only to residents.
  2. Implement magnet hubs where parents can drop off their children to take a bus directly to school.
  3. Make no changes.

It’s a tough decision, but JCPS Chief Operations Officer Rob Fulk said during a board meeting that their goal is to put the district in a position that prevents bus routes from exceeding their available drivers. Choosing option one, however, would put roughly 16,000 students out of bus transportation services until they switch residence schools.

In the meantime, the district is partnering with TARC, the Transit Authority of River City, to allow students an alternative means of transportation if they end up being removed from their previous bus.

“Our plan right now is to provide any middle school or high school students who would like a TARC pass that they would be able to use that TARC pass at any time, along with ensuring that every one of our middle and high schools has a stop within the proximity of the school,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said during the board meeting.


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Safe trips: Why more schools are hiring transportation monitors Mon, 05 Feb 2024 19:46:15 +0000 Their role goes beyond simply being an extra pair of eyes—they can be instrumental in creating a controlled, safe, and peaceful environment for the nation’s most vulnerable students.

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Most education professionals, especially those managing student transportation, understand how much time, coordination and attention is needed to simply get students to and from school.

This is especially true when coordinating transportation for the nation’s most vulnerable students, those with disabilities, who may require extra physical or emotional support to ensure safe transportation. Monitors play a key role with these students, and in recent years, there has been a sharp increase in demand for monitors, especially in alternative student transportation.

Alternative student transportation, which involves transporting students in small-capacity vehicles, offers school districts a safe and cost-effective way to provide crucial transportation services to students, including those with unique needs. That includes students with disabilities, students experiencing housing insecurity, students in foster care, and students who attend a school that is out of their district or in a hard-to-reach location.

Benefits of transportation monitors

Having a transportation monitor in the vehicle can be a major benefit to both the driver and the student. Their role goes beyond simply being an extra pair of eyes—they can be instrumental in creating a controlled, safe, and peaceful environment, which is especially important when it comes to setting the student up for a successful day at school.

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Monitors provide:

  • Safety and Security: Monitors can help ensure the safety and security of students and drivers during transit.
  • Behavior Management: Their presence alone can deter disruptive behavior, and they can intervene when necessary to address any issues. This can lead to a more controlled and peaceful environment, reducing the risk of interfering with the driver and thus accidents.
  • Parental Peace of Mind: Parents often feel more at ease knowing that there is adult supervision on the school vehicle.
  • Special Needs Support: For students with disabilities, having a monitor on board can help with securing mobility devices and ensuring the comfort and safety of vulnerable students.
  • Compliance: Monitors can help ensure that the transportation service complies with safety regulations and district policies.
  • Improved Driver Focus: With a monitor onboard, drivers can concentrate on the road and their primary responsibility of safely operating the vehicle.

Demand continues to grow

As already mentioned, the demand for monitors in alternative transportation has increased rapidly in recent years. EverDriven, the nation’s largest provider of alternative student transportation, has seen a nearly 106% increase in trips requiring monitors since School Year 21/22, which is over double the 46% increase we have experienced for trips overall. This increased demand reflects school districts’ commitment to keeping students safe, and keeping risk to the district low when transporting medically fragile children or students with unique needs.

One of the most significant reasons behind the need for more monitors is the increase in students requiring transportation services with individualized support. Federal regulations, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Every Student Succeeds Act and McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, require that public schools provide services to students to meet their unique educational needs.

Yet with many schools facing funding challenges, school transportation services tend to dwindle, with monitor jobs frequently being eliminated or going unfilled. The problem can be especially severe in larger school districts that have more students with disabilities. This could pose not just a safety risk to schools but a legal one as well. Financial challenges also mean that it can be a struggle for schools to ensure these roles are fully funded.

What does this mean for the future of school transportation?

Monitors play a vital role in ensuring the safe transportation of students. The growing demand for monitors, in alternative transportation, reflects school districts’ commitment to provide safe and reliable transportation options for all students.

School districts should continue to work creatively to accommodate the growing need for monitors. Given the ongoing staffing shortages, ensuring availability of monitors internally and with their vendors will be critical. School district administrators, in conjunction with families, teachers and community stakeholders, should also continue to advocate for transportation solutions with more monitors to ensure a safe ride to school for the students who need them.

Our students deserve reliable and safe transportation—and monitors are a key part of making that happen.


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See which districts will share $1 billion in new clean school bus funding Tue, 09 Jan 2024 17:04:03 +0000 Thousands of new clean, green and electric buses will soon be carrying kids to school thanks to a $1 billion boost in funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Thousands of new clean, green and electric buses will soon be carrying kids to school thanks to a $1 billion boost in funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Dozens of school districts, bus companies and other entities will use their share of the EPA’s first Clean School Bus Program Grants to purchase 2,700 low- and zero-emission buses. About 280 school districts serving over 7 million students across 37 states will benefit from the initiative, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law, the EPA announced this week.

“We’re once again accelerating the transition to electric and low-emission school buses in America, helping to secure a healthier future where all our children can breathe cleaner air,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement. “I’ve sat next to students on their very first clean school bus ride and their excitement reflects the power of good policy.”

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Among the biggest award winners are Boston Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, the Dekalb County School District, Los Angeles USD and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, which each received about $20 million to upgrade their bus fleets.

Asthma and other conditions exacerbated by diesel bus emissions cause students to miss school, a problem that disproportionately affects communities of color and Tribal communities, the EPA says. The agency initially made $400 million in grants available but doubled the amount because of districts’ heavy demand for electric and low-emission vehicles.

In 2022, the EPA awarded schools over $875 million in Clean School Bus Program rebates, which allowed 372 school districts to replace 2,366 vehicles. The agency is accepting applications for the 2023 clean bus rebate program until Jan. 31.


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What K12 leaders can do to recruit the new generation of bus drivers Tue, 09 Jan 2024 15:28:06 +0000 The good news for most school districts is that real progress can be made in hiring Generation Z and Millennials drivers with various employment options while retaining valuable, experienced transportation employees.

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The school bus is an iconic symbol of the American education system. Millions of students are transported to and from school safely each day. Behind the wheel of each vehicle are dedicated school bus drivers, who play a critical role in ensuring the safety and well-being of the students in their charge.

School transportation is a massive undertaking in the United States, and the system has worked well for many years. Since the pandemic, various forces have created a pervasive problem where almost all school districts face challenges with retaining experienced drivers and attracting new talent. This article will explore strategies and considerations to attract bus drivers given the current labor market with an eye toward the future and a new employment model for bus drivers.

The challenge of retaining employees in just about any career area is real and has forced changes in most organizations. These same post-pandemic workforce challenges—along with some unique factors—influence school transportation. Historically, bus drivers work irregular hours, often on a split shift, and have an enormous responsibility that, increasingly, is not aligned with the compensation available in most school districts.

The abundant availability of other higher-paying driver jobs further erodes the number of school bus drivers. Reimagining the employment model for bus drivers will be critical for school districts to start reducing the number of driver vacancies. As districts enter into collective bargaining processes, there is probably no better time to consider these issues.

New employment model for a new era

As school employees increasingly choose careers outside of education and other potential employees choose careers in different fields, school districts must recognize the importance of competitive wages and benefits packages to retain employees at all career stages. School bus drivers carry the most precious cargo in every community and should be compensated at a level consistent with that responsibility.

While offering pay increases and benefits can make the work more appealing and better match the level of responsibility, this is only a starting point. School districts must look to the future and recognize that there is not much of a future if we fail to attract a new generation of drivers. The reality is that nationally, the average school bus driver is 57 years old, with only 5% of all bus drivers under 40 (Zippia, 2022). There are few occupations with an average worker age nearing 60. The ability to meet the needs of future drivers will be a crucial consideration when negotiating employment contracts.

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Considering that older workers value most of the same things in a workplace as younger workers, it is unnecessary to look at negotiations as a generational dichotomy. Instead, a holistic evaluation of workplace conditions can lead to the best proposals at the bargaining table while recognizing some minor differences.

What generational differences exist in the workplace that can considered in the negotiating process? Generation Z and Millennials value a workplace that allows for an excellent work-life balance, opportunities for growth, mental health support, and alignment with their values (Peterson, 2023) (O’Boyle, 2021).

Older workers value the same things but also seek to share what they know. Older workers also tend to be the most dedicated employees in any organization (Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, 2015) but they often have concerns about age-related medical conditions. The good news for most school districts is that real progress can be made in these critical areas that can attract the next generation of drivers with various employment options while retaining those valuable, experienced school bus drivers.

Contractual considerations:

  • While evaluating how competitive salaries are against other school districts is essential, considering compensation in private or non-student transportation businesses is important.
  • Evaluate the impact of offering retention bonuses to counter driver loss resulting from sign-on bonuses offered elsewhere.
  • Create career ladders where excellent veteran drivers train and coach less experienced drivers as part of their responsibilities.
  • Explore flexible scheduling options to accommodate drivers’ needs, allowing them to balance work with their personal lives more effectively.
  • Seek ways to fill out schedules with other work to address split schedule problems.
  • Seek out strategies to enhance benefits, such as options for family coverage or enhanced dental or eyeglass coverage

Non-contractual retention strategies:

  • Investing in ongoing training and support programs can enhance drivers’ skills and confidence, reducing turnover rates. It also reinforces the district’s commitment to safety.
  • Recognizing and appreciating bus drivers for their hard work through awards, ceremonies, and tokens of gratitude can boost morale and job satisfaction.
  • Marketing bus driving positions, using various channels such as social media, local job boards, and community events to reach potential candidates.
  • If possible, streamline the process of obtaining a CDL by providing training and resources to help candidates meet the requirements.
  • Engage with the community to foster a sense of civic duty and pride in becoming a school bus driver, emphasizing their essential role in education.

The shortage of school bus drivers is a challenge that school districts must address proactively. Districts must prioritize strategies to retain experienced drivers while attracting new talent.

A well-compensated, supported, and recognized bus-driving workforce will benefit the education system and provide a fulfilling career option for those passionate about student safety and community service. As the wheels of education keep turning, remember that bus drivers are the unsung heroes who keep the journey smooth and secure for future generations.


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Why it’s time to ‘electrify’ school bus transportation Tue, 12 Dec 2023 13:53:25 +0000 "The school bus industry is changing," says one expert. "We are going to go through the largest transformation the industry has ever seen in its 100-plus years of existence. And that's because electric is here, and it's not going away."

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“The school bus industry is changing. We are going to go through the largest transformation the industry has ever seen in its 100-plus years of existence. And that’s because electric is here, and it’s not going away.”

That’s according to Kevin Matthews, head of electrification at First Student, a leading school bus transportation provider. The company currently deploys 310, a number they anticipate to increase in the coming years

He says district leaders should begin looking into the available sources of funding as early as possible citing concerns about their longevity.

“Mixing the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program and $5 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill—states have some funding as well—that’s available now,” Matthews says. “Five billion dollars seems like a lot of money. It’s not. That’ll disappear in the not-too-distant future. Moving now while these funds are available is going to be critical.”

Diesel prices are also on the rise, he adds, which heavily impacts districts’ cost-benefit analyses of their bus fleets. Additionally, he believes diesel engines for school buses will disappear much sooner than people realize. By 2026, at least 15 states will no longer be purchasing diesel-run school buses. Instead, they’ll be adopting legislation first introduced in California, the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, which will require manufacturers of medium- to heavy-duty vehicles to transition to zero-emissions starting in 2036.

“The people who manufacture diesel engines are beginning to stop manufacturing or investing in meeting emissions requirements in these states because they know they’ll no longer be able to sell them,” he says. “The diesel engine development is coming to a halt.”

Add to that a mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency, which proposed new greenhouse emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles. For upcoming model years 2028-2032, manufacturers will be expected to meet more stringent standards than ever before required by the EPA.

“The manufacturers have to meet these requirements,” he says. “They are going to have to have more and more zero-emissions vehicles they manufacture to meet these requirements.”

Each of these regulations provides a forecast of how the traditional diesel-run school bus will be phased out of district transportation.

A slow transition

As of June 2023, nearly 6,000 electric school buses have been awarded, delivered or are in operation across 914 school districts or private fleet operators, according to a recent count by the World Resources Institute, a global research nonprofit. This time last year, they noted a significant rise in the number of ESBs (electric school buses) being adopted by schools, and it’s a trend that’s continued since.

However, many leaders are still hesitant due to the initial sticker shock associated with the initial cost of an all-electric fleet. Greg Jackson, director of business development for School Bus Logistics and former executive director of transportation for Colorado’s second-largest school district Jefferson County Public Schools, says leaders must understand that it’s a long-term investment that eventually pays off.

“It’s going to pay for itself over the lifespan of that bus,” he says. “Now, you’re not paying for the parts necessary for an engine, which will constantly need servicing. A battery will give you about eight years of operation.”

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But before you begin this transition, Jackson cautions leaders to do their research ahead of time. Districts need the proper infrastructure to operate these vehicles effectively.

“Infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges for school districts because electric buses require more spacing than diesel buses or any fossil fuel vehicle,” he says. “You’ve got to make sure you have chargers in place. You’ll have to work with your local electric companies to see if your grid can withstand the impact of charging and maintaining that bus.”

He says hiring for special positions like a sustainability director who is responsible for overseeing this type of work can help districts make significant progress in this area.

“Usually, it helps with the process,” he says. “If you’re alone as a director of transportation, you’re often thinking, ‘What do I do next?'”

Don’t be too quick to leverage these previously mentioned funding sources, too, he argues. Implementing a successful ESB fleet requires you to do your homework ahead of time. Can they be used on your routes? How much charge will you get out of them? Do I need to redesign our routes? These are the kinds of questions leaders ought to ask ahead of time.

“As people are looking to bring on EV, there’s a lot of that background work coupled with hesitations and fear that these buses are not going to do what they need to do,” he notes. “It’s all about doing the pre-planning necessary before you take your next steps.”


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How 3 districts are handling a ‘transportation crisis’ in their first weeks of school Mon, 14 Aug 2023 18:10:23 +0000 Marty Pollio, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky, said he had to make the most difficult decision of his career: cancel the second and third days of school to solve issues involving their bus routes.

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School is underway for most school districts across the country. Unfortunately, what’s meant to be a time of excitement and gathering has, for many, turned into this long-feared realization that their schools will have no choice but to operate understaffed, a situation K12 leaders have worked all summer to prevent. However, some positions are much more difficult for districts to fill post-pandemic, particularly bus fleets.

Driver shortages

“Let’s face it, everybody had to put food on that table back then, so they would go and you know, a lot of bus drivers left, took jobs elsewhere, delivering packages and things like that,” Tom Hamilton of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts told CBS News regarding the state’s ongoing battle to recruit bus drivers ahead of the 2023-24 school year.

For example, Framingham Public Schools is one of several across Massachusetts that’s finding it difficult to fill and maintain its bus fleet.

“We have been made aware that we will only have 57 bus drivers to start this coming 2023-2024 school year,” reads a letter from the district to parents. “In order to operate efficiently and get as many students requesting transportation on a bus to and from school in a safe and timely manner, the District needs 77 buses.”

Knox County Schools in Tennessee is in a similar dilemma as the district is short 31 bus drivers in its second week of school, Knox News reports. As a result, students are getting home hours later than usual.

That situation is better than last year, according to the district’s Director of Transportation Ryan Dillingham. This time last year, the district was short 50 drivers. But in some areas throughout the district, this school year is looking worse than others.

“Some contractors have more driver openings than others,” he told Knox News. “Some have more openings in some communities than in others communities but we have driver shortages all across Knox County.”

“When you have vacancies stacked on top of vacancies, everyone is then running behind.”

A “transportation disaster” in Kentucky

Kentucky’s largest school system, Jefferson County Public Schools, was forced to choose schools through August 15 after a “transportation disaster,” according to the district’s superintendent. The district had recently redesigned its plan to reduce the number of routes to compensate for their ongoing driver shortage, but confusion struck, inevitably leaving some children on the bus until just before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, the first day of school, CNN reports.

In a video statement to families, Superintendent Marty Pollio apologized to the district’s 96,000 students, their families and other members of the community. He said that canceling the second and third days of school was the most difficult decision he’s ever had to make.

District administration later addressed the need to close schools through Monday and Tuesday.

“I saw some incredible instruction,” Pollio said in the video statement. “Kids excited, families excited, new school buildings, and to have it end with the transportation disaster that we had last night was truly unacceptable. And once again, I apologize for that.”

Superintendent Marty Pollio’s message to families following the transportation issue

Families waited hours for their children to return home. And as of 9:58 p.m. on Wednesday, several students had yet to make it back home.

“We will be working diligently to make adjustments with the goal of reducing bus wait times and ensuring every child who needs one has a safe ride to and from school,” said Pollio.


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What will it take for schools to have a full fleet of bus drivers again? Thu, 20 Jul 2023 12:30:17 +0000 In some districts, the bus driver shortage is "worse than ever," but why? From retirements to a lack of funding, administrators are in over their heads looking for a solution to this crisis.

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Every school district experienced its own share of challenges during the pandemic. Some fared worse than others, but to say that every district is still experiencing some sort of pandemic-related impact would be an understatement. For many administrators, one key area essential to the daily operations of a school district continues to top their list of challenges: finding and maintaining a full school bus fleet.

Chatham County School District, GA

As of July 12, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System had only 154 official bus drivers, compared to last year’s tally of 222. Even worse, in 2019, the district had 328 drivers, GPB reports. Unfortunately, leaders don’t see an easy fix to the issue.

“We want to acknowledge that we know we have some challenges,” said newly hired SCCPSS Superintendent Denise Watts. “I have not been here long enough to truly unpack that… I’m not prepared to speak today to what those challenges or impacts are.”

Education Director at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute Stephen Owens told GPB that the issue stems from the state’s outdated budget policies. Schools rely on supplemental help to operate transportation budgets, but the system was set in 2000. Without proper adjustments to funding to meet current transportation costs, schools in the district inevitably run into problems.

Ector County ISD, TX

Administrators across Ector County ISD are working on finding new and innovative ways to incentivize drivers to join their fleets. Like school districts across the country, Ector County is also experiencing its fair share of shortages. As a result, they’re promising drivers a competitive salary, benefits and other appreciative efforts, CBS7 reports.

“We are very proud that we implemented a pay increase for all of our employees across the board,” Associate Superintendent Anthony J. Sorola told CBS7. “A 3 percent raise classification.”

“Our starting salary is very competitive,” he added. “We also have flexible scheduling for our bus drivers. A lot of times they choose to work part-time as a bus driver because they require that. We offer that benefit, as well as medical benefits.”

Shenendehowa Central School District, NY

“We take that time to, kind of, take a breath and start to prepare for fall,” Assistant Director of Transportation Belinda Govich told News10 regarding the district’s summer plans. “Unfortunately, because we are short drivers, we have not had that breath.”

Many of the district’s former bus drivers reached retirement age since the pandemic, and now there aren’t enough applicants to fill in the gaps.

“We lost about 19 drivers this year, and we only have about 10 in training so far, so we are already going into the fall short again,” said Govich.

They’ve also been unable to provide students with transportation to various summer camps and field trips as they could in the past because summer school alone is occupying all their drivers.

“A lot of my colleagues who are directors and transportation supervisors are out on the road driving every day,” Govich explained. “Basically, anyone with a CDL is out on the roads.”

Govich’s message to parents this year, according to News10, is “Be patient. We most likely will be facing some delays as we did last year, as we have very similar challenges to those we did last year.”

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Be boring: How to avoid the chaos caused by bus driver shortages Thu, 22 Jun 2023 15:59:30 +0000 Boring equates to everything running on time and being fully resourced with no major disruptions. But staffing issues and other constraints frequently create conditions that are the total opposite.

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The goal of school district transportation operation, whether administrators want to admit it or not, is to succeed at being boring. Boring equates to everything running on time and being fully resourced with no major disruptions.

But bus driver shortages and district resourcing difficulties frequently create conditions that are the total opposite. Every morning across the U.S., school buses routinely arrive late. Some don’t show up at all. At a minimum, students and families experience limited disruption, but at a maximum, major changes cause a cascading effect across all areas of district operations.

Even with minimal disruption, parent and caregiver anxiety is exponentially heightened by simply not knowing. And, with the increased national focus on student safety, the school bus is a critical security concern that should not be overlooked in incident response planning.

As school security hardens, the entire school perimeter and school buses shift to a higher threat level, too. District administrators can no longer ignore the need to deliver robust and effective student safety measures while driving operational efficiencies.

Avoid ‘wrong bus, wrong stop’ incidents

Student safety starts at the bus stop. The management of loading and unloading passengers is a fundamental aspect of the student safety spectrum. Persistent driver shortages increase demands on drivers and introduce additional risks to the stop management process.

Whereas a regular route driver understands their routes’ intricacies, substitute drivers may not be prepared for the subtleties of a dirt road pickup or a highly trafficked drop-off. Technologies designed to support drivers can reduce the anxiety and distractions of learning a route while enhancing focus on student safety.

Dispatch teams need seamless communication with individual buses to navigate last-minute changes, regardless of drivers’ familiarity with an area. School buses outfitted with state-of-the-art GPS technology maximize their time spent operating, make live locations clear to coordinators at dispatch, and help avoid road hazards as they arise.

Give parents greater visibility in school district transportation

“Who is on the bus?” is one of the immediate, crucial response-driving questions asked by law enforcement, first responders or parents when a crisis occurs. Technology gives everyone in a student’s network the answers in real-time. Responsibly distributing that critical incident information requires a technology partner who knows your district, understands your school operations, and can customize their options to the unique demands of individual routes.

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More than half of parents report wanting access to real-time school bus information in the event of an emergency, as well as timely communication about transportation schedules and drop-off/pick-up details. This is an opportunity to integrate technologies to reduce anxiety, enhance safety, and increase operational awareness. For example, automated alerting of a child’s boarding and exiting in pickup and drop-off zones provides certainty and calmness to parents.

RFID card swipe capabilities, similar to what many adults use to enter their workplaces, add another safety layer. School districts deploy this technology to know when and where a student enters and exits a bus. These technologies help increase confidence in school transportation programs and help administrators avoid unintentionally increasing guardian stress, for example, when maintenance or driver reassignments result in bus swaps.

Control the controllables

The risks associated with running a full-scale school bus fleet will always be high just by virtue of the number of daily touchpoints and the precious nature of its cargo. Each vehicle may serve up to 70 students, with multiple pick-ups, amounting to dozens of stops. The additional demands of using the bus to take students on complex routes to different campuses, field trips, and afterschool programs increases the complication of operations.

During an average school year, around 10 billion student trips are made. One bus pulled out of service sets off reverberations of safety risks across a district and disrupts operations for administrators.

With so many trips on the line, these unplanned disruptions are inevitable. That’s why administrators must control the controllables. Districts can significantly reduce the frequency of unplanned disruptions by ensuring their school bus fleet is in good working order. Verifiable, paperless pre- and post-inspection systems help maintain compliance and streamline processes for busy drivers.

Today’s smart fleet management platforms seamlessly capture and consolidate pre- and post-check inspection data, including integration into maintenance work order software so mechanics can prioritize and prepare for repairs before they lead to costly breakdowns. No driver wants to get stuck roadside with children onboard or stranded at the stop expecting a pickup.

Being boring is the most exciting thing districts can do

The more resource-constrained an operation is, the more critical it is to ensure your district has the tools and structures to maximize the availability and use of buses.

Modern data programs will help you minimize the number of missed stops and provide opportunities to identify efficiencies and reduce risks. Even when it comes to last-minute changes and critical responses, the right technology partner can help your district’s buses run on time.


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