The following tips on saving transportation dollars and increasing operating efficiency come from three special-needs transportation experts who presented at the recent National Association for Pupil Transportation conference in Nashville, Tenn. — Peter Grandolfo of Chicago Public Schools, Alexandra Robinson of San Diego Unified School District and Launi Schmutz of Washington County (Utah) Schools.
• Integrate special-needs and regular school transportation as much as possible. Consider putting an aide on a “regular” bus, rather than sending a “special” bus.
• Consider contracting-out transportation services for at-risk kids with severe behavior problems. This may be less expensive than training your staff to manage violent behavior.
• Spec your buses for multiple purposes. Consider spec’ing a door for a wheelchair lift so that if you need to install a lift in the future, the space is there and it won’t be costly.
• Ask a neighboring district or nonprofit agency to pick up some of your kids who live along their routes.
• When a parent provides you with a transportation time for therapy services, don’t be afraid to suggest a better time if that one is not convenient. Appointments are flexible.
• Contract with a grant-writing service. With little monetary output, you may reap big rewards.
• Consider offering Head Start transportation. It is federally reimbursed and Head Start vehicles can be used to transport other students, as long as they are also being used for Head Start kids.
• Check the following sources:
State Department of Education
Safe Kids Coalition
Highway Safety Office
Regional/local transit agencies
IDEA — money for adaptive equipment and assistive technology.
Insurance companies and auto manufacturers — money for car seats.