How often does this happen to your staff?
During the afternoon elementary bus run home, one of your buses contacts your dispatcher and informs them that they have a child on the bus with no parent or guardian at home to receive them.
Your dispatcher tries all of the emergency telephone numbers, only to get answering machines, cellular voice mail or — worse — disconnected numbers.
Reluctantly, dispatch advises the driver, per your district or carrier policy, to return to the depot with the child. Your staff then has to provide childcare for the student — in a building where childcare probably should not occur — until the parent can be located.
If this scenario isn’t happening to you or your operation, you’re one of the lucky ones. Many transportation directors I have spoken with have expressed frustration at having to provide childcare during the busiest time of the day, when they are the least prepared to do so.
Many have also said that they have had little success in convincing fellow school administrators that this practice is not a good thing for the transportation department or the children involved.
In this article, I will provide you with some talking points that will hopefully give you some parameters to guide a future conversation between you and your bosses as you attempt to change this situation.
It does not matter if you are a 30-bus operation or a 300-bus operation — your department’s workload is very different than that of individual school buildings, especially between the hours of 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. In most cases during these hours, school buildings are starting to empty, and your buses and department start to “fill up.”
Transportation departments provide a district-wide or, in some cases, a countywide function, responsible for thousands of children. A school building may be responsible for only the few hundred students who attend there. Along the same line, your business can become extremely hectic based on weather and traffic that affects your entire operation and may have little or no impact on an individual school building or its staff.
The direction I am going with this is that when a child is brought to the transportation facility, your staff is often tied up answering radios and phones, dealing with possible bus breakdowns or discipline matters or doing on-the-spot routing due to road construction, accidents or traffic congestion. The proper supervision of children by your staff is often not possible.
On the other hand, many school buildings have some sort of after-school activities going on or at least have staff cleaning the building and possibly some faculty wrapping up the day.
”You’re not my mommy”
We work in the business of children every day. We have their best interests at heart and are always concerned with their safety and feelings. I also have to say that because we are so familiar with our school district’s facilities, we adults often forget how strange a new environment feels to a child.
There are children who are frequent fliers with regards to parents or guardians not being home. However, for many children, this is a first-time experience.
Many thoughts race through their minds: “Who are you?” “Where are my mommy and daddy” “Why did they forget me?” Students are often very comfortable with their driver, but that doesn’t mean that they would be comfortable with the bus garage.