JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A pilot program implemented by Student Transportation of America (STA) to provide transportation for Duval County students attending area magnet schools has been well-received by parents, according to company officials.
Last month, Duval County Public Schools reportedly cut transportation to and from several magnet schools, which left parents and students to find another means of transportation.
Chris Ingold, operations manager at STA's Jacksonville location, said that “hundreds” of parents contacted the company following the notification by the district about the cut in bus service.
“We have set up online applications and a budget-friendly payment plan we believe parents will like, and we are opening up our applications to all those who need transportation throughout the district,” Ingold added.
STA is currently serving the school district in a fully staffed maintenance and operations facility, along with a fleet of over 250 vehicles.
Parents can register for bus service online and suggest a bus stop for their child. Officials said the goal is to allow working parents, single parents and those otherwise affected by the transportation cuts a way to maintain their schedules and still ensure that their children get to and from school safely and on time.
"It is important for parents to know that STA provides the safety of the yellow bus with certified drivers and vehicles maintained and inspected by state officials. Our company also provides the same insurance coverage to all our passengers as we provide to Duval County Public Schools," Ingold said.
In addition to regular service to school, STA said it will be launching its EasyRider Program at a later date, where parents can be notified of any scheduling or route changes via e-mail or mobile phone. Instant alerts and messaging will allow better communications with parents and the company. Riders can also earn points based on days riding and will be able to use those points in a rewards program being developed. In addition, the company is exploring such options as installing Internet access on buses for students while on the ride.
In other news, the contractor revealed that one year after Regional School District 17, which serves the towns of Haddam and Killingworth, Conn., chose to outsource its school bus service to STA, the district has achieved a budget surplus that allows it to assign savings in operational expenses and $277,530 from the sale of its bus fleet to reduce town tax assessments and school budget costs.
In 2010, the district's school board set aside $830,000 STA paid for the district's bus fleet in an interest-bearing savings account. The school board plans to use those funds over the course of three budget years to defray expenses, officials said.