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February 01, 2013  |   Comments (3)   |   Post a comment

Special-needs collaboration streamlines service

By establishing policies on which students can receive special-needs bus transportation and providing those students with the exact services they need, transportation departments can operate buses efficiently, creating cost savings for districts. Communication and teamwork between school and transportation personnel are essential to achieving this.

by Lori L. Riddles


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istockimage@Christopher Steer

istockimage@Christopher Steer

Special-needs transportation covers a wide variety of unique scenarios. It takes logistics, medical knowledge, and expert time management and organizational skills to provide exact services for each student, all while complying with the complex federal and state laws and individual school districts’ rules.

Special-needs buses must be individually tailored but roll like it is just another day on any other school bus. To accomplish this balancing act, transportation departments and school staff responsible for these students must work as a team to ensure that all the needs for special-education students are being met. It requires flawless communication among all parties and clear standards. When there are not smooth communication venues and clear policies, special-needs transportation can be a funnel where school funds flow out at an alarming rate. When the school staff responsible for special-needs students works as a team with the transportation staff that provides those services, the result is  cost savings to the school district.

Many times, the school staff instructs the transportation department on which students will require special transportation and how they should be transported. The result is often a crippling transportation budget, overcrowded buses or too many buses on the road. When schools work in conjunction with transportation personnel, making certain that only special-needs students receive the special transportation services and that the students are receiving exactly what they need, school transportation departments can be confident that they are providing efficient service.

Establish comprehensible policies
There are a few simple steps that school districts can take to establish effective special-needs transportation collaboration between schools and transportation departments. First, transportation departments must develop clear policies that mirror federal IDEA laws and state laws that govern special-needs student transportation.

Districts can provide valid services without providing services that are more of a convenience than an actual need. By maintaining clear rules that follow the idea of the least restrictive environment rather than convenience for the district or parents, and by keeping the needs of the students at the forefront of all decisions, transportation crews can inventively transport students while providing for every individual need.

Once the policies are in place, schools and transportation staff must agree that only under extreme, unusual circumstances should those policies be violated. Once an exception is made, it is very easy to repeat the exception. After time, the exceptions become past practice and policies are nothing more than old ideas. Keeping policies current and following them provides consistency among special-needs school staff and transportation, which results in less frustration for parents, bus drivers who can be confident about the policies they follow during day-to-day operations, and one less avenue for loss of funds.

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In Florida, no. Generally, those determinations (door to door or bus stop) are made as part of the child’s IEP process. That is one reason collaboration between school and transportation staff is so vital. Those involved should weigh a number of factors and determine the scope of transportation requirements on an individualized basis for each special needs student.

Lori    |    Feb 07, 2013 08:16 AM

Great and informing article. However, I have a remaining question. Is there a law that requires home to school pick-up and delivery, versus bus stop to school? Thank you!

Bobbie    |    Feb 06, 2013 08:26 PM

Terrific Suggestions. I am an educator who encourages communication with pupil transportation professionals as a way to build student plans between classrooms and transportation settings. We work hard to ensure that students receive special education services that are aligned with their needs, and these tenets must apply to school transportation. Pupil transporters and educators can inform each other about student behavior, functional skills, and transportation independence, all information important to facilitating student mobility once they leave the school setting. Thank you Lori for your work! I will add your article to the tools that Easter Seals Project ACTION developed to help educators and pupil transporters build relationships- http://www.projectaction.org/Initiatives/YouthTransportation.aspx

Judy Shanley    |    Feb 04, 2013 06:29 AM

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