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June 01, 2010  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

6 Questions to Ask When Considering Joint Transportation

If transportation administrators pose these questions before entering into an agreement to share or combine their services, they will avoid a number of problems, including miscommunication among bus drivers, scheduling conflicts and disagreements about student discipline procedures.

by Michael Dallessandro


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3. Will school calendars present a challenge?

This issue can present a roadblock to getting a consolidated transportation agreement off the ground.

Let’s say that two districts are going to work together on transporting students to one neighboring school. If all of the schools do not follow the same calendar, this can result in a district having to provide service on days that the others are not in service or having to provide service when they are not in session.

A very good example of this exists in my own district. Lake Shore provides a three-day Thanksgiving recess. Many neighboring districts only provide a two-day recess for that holiday. We would most likely not able to hold up our end of the bargain in a cooperative transportation agreement on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Take every step to consider the impact of early dismissal days, conference and staff development days, exam schedules, holidays, summer school schedules, etc. My advice is to lay your schedules and calendars out on the table and make it clear to your superintendents and boards of education that if districts are not going to align school calendars, cooperative transportation programs are doomed to failure.

4. Who is arriving early and staying late?

Students who participate in breakfast programs, early-morning music and academic programs, and afterschool ath­­letics must be addressed prior to creating cooperative transportation programs.

With proper planning, you may be able to develop a combined program that addresses normal bell times, or at least meets bell times within 15 minutes. However, your savings will quickly be reduced when you add the programs listed above. You may find that the students you tried to accommodate through a combined transportation program with a neighboring district need to be at school at different times on different days, or they may not ride at all on certain days.

5. Can weather be a problem?

It does not matter what part of the country you are from — we each have our own weather-related stories. With snow, ice, wind or rain, school closings will be an issue under any cooperative transportation agreement. Clear answers have to be provided on weather-related closings. Weather-related power outages could also pose difficulties when providing joint transportation.

The question of who makes the call to close and what determines a closing should be answered. It wouldn’t be prudent to have your bus travel through a district that closed due to weather to get to a district that was still open.

6. What discipline code will your students follow?

In most cases, students know and understand what is expected of them when it comes to transportation. However, there will be situations where a student who is riding another district’s bus through a cooperative transportation agreement may require discipline.

There should be clear answers for drivers as to how they discipline these students. Do they use the other district’s conduct reports? Do they have to attend discipline meetings at the other district? Is there an appeals process in place if a driver from District A did not get the correct backing in a student discipline matter from an administrator at District B? Student discipline can cause major headaches and weaken relations between districts or carriers if a plan is not mapped out in advance.

This situation can also arise with employee discipline. District A may have concerns about a driver or monitor from District B who is providing cooperative services. Is there a process in place for district representatives to pursue disciplinary concerns or action through District B, and what if District B does not agree with the concerns?

As you can see, there are many questions that have to be answered before a cooperative transportation plan can be drafted and implemented. If your supervisor wonders why you have reservations during discussions about this topic, hand them your copy of SBF and ask them to review this article. It may cause some adjustments to be made to the next meeting’s agenda.

I welcome your feedback. Send comments to [email protected].

Michael Dallessandro is transportation supervisor at Lake Shore Central School District in Angola, N.Y., and a frequent contributor to SBF. His Website is www.respondsmart.com.

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