In SBF’s 2004 exclusive special-needs survey (see February issue, pg. 20), transportation directors and managers from across the country were asked what their greatest challenge is in special-needs transportation. The concern named most by respondents (13 percent) was not having sufficient funding and available resources, but answers to the question came in an array of categories. Following is a list of some of the more informative and revealing responses.
The biggest challenge is handling the needs of students with inadequate information regarding the student problem.
The locations of classrooms — scattered from 14 to 55 miles from students’ homes. Most want to start and end their day at the same time. This causes us to contract several routes, because we can’t be everywhere at one time.
Lack of timely communication when a child moves.
Understanding the need of the individual student and training drivers in those needs.
We transport 134 students and adults (ages 2-78) on our buses and another 65 adults on a van shuttle service. We cover the entire county, which is the seventh largest in the state, covering over 610 square miles. It is difficult to keep the bus routes within the 90-minute ride time and have numbers on the buses to make it as cost effective as possible.
Convincing the administration that more training is needed for special-needs drivers.
This year we were short on drivers, so we have had a tough time meeting schedule. We are attempting to accelerate the acquisition process, but the struggle continues.
Not having enough opportunities to provide input into transportation’s concerns when transporting some children with very severe disabilities.
The parents can be a challenge, especially in having the students ready for the morning pickup and being at home in the evening for dropoff.
With budget constraints and reduced funding, the number of special-needs students keeps increasing.
The cost and difficulty of finding the extra buses, drivers and techs to drive and ride the special runs.
Keeping up with a transient population. Some of our students move four or more times in a school year and go to school outside of established attendance zones.
Some narrow streets in the city cannot accommodate a bus, and some private bridges in the outlying areas will not support a bus.
Finding and keeping qualified bus monitors.
Paperwork on new students, and scheduling new students in on routes.
Training for drivers, because the disabilities are so diverse.
Encouraging the diagnosticians and administrators to treat special-needs transportation as a need, not a perk.
Getting medical information that is beneficial for the drivers to them without compromising confidentiality.
Making sure the wheelchairs are secure.
It is hard to be at all the schools at the correct start/release times. If the times were staggered, it would be helpful.
Getting the initial intake information to determine services that need to be provided. We have a new form, but nobody involved with the IEPT process wants to embrace another form.
The distance we have to take a child to meet the program needs that are not offered in our district.
My greatest challenge is providing monitors with the correct attitude for the special-education students.
Continued addition of students to special-needs buses for behavior not resulting from their disabilities, simply to meet attendance laws.
The cost per vehicle for runs with small numbers of students.
Behavior management is a priority issue for this population. There are also concerns regarding responsibility of the school district and transportation in the role of providing medical services on the bus. Child restraint is another area that has come to the forefront regarding the safe transportation of our students and receiving credible training in regard to this issue.