The summer was a busy season for the pupil transportation community, with school bus bills being passed and new programs being launched throughout the country. In addition to Illinois (covered in News Alert) and Louisiana (covered in separate Industry News story), these states logged some noteworthy developments:
Iowa: The state has published a new “School Bus Driver’s Handbook” — its first new edition since 1993. Max Christensen, school transportation executive officer for the Iowa Department of Education (IDE), said that while the old version was still quite useful, “many things have changed in the past 14 years.”
The IDE worked with one of the state’s area education agencies to develop the new handbook, which can be ordered for $1 per copy (to cover printing costs) or downloaded from the IDE Website.
New Mexico: The state embarked on a pilot project with Zonar Systems that provides GPS and student identification at what could be the largest single school bus stop in the country. Approximately 450 students from Palomas, Mexico, are bused from the border to New Mexico schools.
Gilbert Perea, assistant secretary for program support and student transportation at the New Mexico Public Education Department, said that technology could help in coordinating the operation while enhancing border security.
New Mexico has also received funding for and is in the process of requesting proposals to install GPS in all of the state’s school buses by the end of the fiscal year.
West Virginia: The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) created an online state driver certification process to help with identification of all state drivers and to ensure that drivers stay current on all of their credentials. Ben Shew, executive director of school transportation at the WVDE, said that the department is considering adding bus accident information to the program as well.
The state was also preparing to launch an online testing and training program. The program, Advanced Systems Technology’s Safe Transit, will facilitate recertification for returning drivers and certification for new drivers. The training modules can be used by an individual driver or in a class setting. Shew said that the the program “will assure test security and the proper chain of custody.”
New York: Gov. Eliot Spitzer signed a bill aimed at reducing school bus idling. The bill directs the commissioner of education to require that certain school districts — particularly those with a significant number of children who have asthma — minimize the idling of school buses parked at schools.
State law already restricts bus and truck idling to five consecutive minutes. Under the new legislation, the commissioner can require that school buses be turned off at schools unless idling is necessary for heating, mechanical or emergency conditions.
South Carolina: The state’s General Assembly adopted extensive new school bus legislation during its last session. Among them is the creation of a new, multi-level certification program for school bus drivers. Donald Tudor, director of the Office of Transportation at the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE), said that a special committee was formed to design the criteria for the new program. The committee includes representatives from school districts, the Department of Motor Vehicles, police agencies, independent schools and the SCDE.