Lead Trainer Leslie Bramble says the operation’s training program is thorough, and that some of its standout components include instruction on bus components and on the state’s laws that apply to school buses. “Darryl pushes all of us to be very conscious of training,” she says.
Continuous improvement for drivers
Hofstra praises the driver whose bus caught fire for acting quickly and safely evacuating the students on board after she noticed that something was wrong with the bus.
“The [emergency response] training that we’ve provided has paid off,” he says. “With any situation like that, there are always things to look at to determine if there are things that we need to pay more attention to — we’re not finding that in this case, fortunately. I did have a de-briefing meeting with my entire staff a few days after the incident to enable them to be fully informed and to ask questions.”
Hofstra believes it’s important to be proactive in school bus driver training. In addition to participating in evacuation drills with students, Forest Hills Public Schools’ drivers undergo two days of in-service training every year, and in preparing for the instruction, Hofstra identifies areas that the drivers need to work on.
“If I’ve seen a spike in a certain type of at-fault crash within the fleet, I’ll develop training around that item,” he says as an example.
He also has a couple of drivers on staff who have completed Michigan’s Train-the-Trainer program, and those individuals work with school bus driver applicants, helping them to complete behind-the-wheel training, pass the CDL test, etc.
Lead Trainer Leslie Bramble has completed the Train-the-Trainer program and has incorporated information from it into her training program for drivers. She says the training is thorough, and some of its standout components include instruction on bus components and on the state’s laws that apply to school buses.
“Darryl pushes all of us to be very conscious of training,” she says.
Safety signal for bus riders
Also among Forest Hills’ bus drivers are several who have received specialized training and who have been selected to serve on a safety team to instruct students in kindergarten through sixth grade on the operation’s bus safety rules and procedures, and to teach them about the safety features of school buses.
As part of the safety training program, the elementary school students receive a school bus safety coloring book that was designed and printed by the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT).
In addition, a pupil transportation statute in the state of Michigan requires that if a school district uses a signal given by the bus drivers to notify students when it is safe for them to cross the street prior to boarding a school bus or after disembarking, it must be a universal signal used by all the drivers.
There isn’t a requirement on what the signal must be, so at Forest Hills Public Schools, Hofstra says the signal the transportation team came up with reminds him of Jeannie in the TV show “I Dream of Jeannie,” when she crossed her arms in front of her to grant a wish.
“The drivers go to the bus window and close one arm down on the other in the direction the students will be walking,” he explains.
The district transports about 6,000 students. Bus service for Forest Hills Public Schools’ special-needs students is contracted to nearby Kent ISD, a regional educational service agency, under a consortium-based agreement. Some special-needs students are mainstreamed on buses with their regular-education peers.
Under the agreement with Kent ISD, Forest Hills Public Schools’ transportation department provides transportation for students to Kent ISD’s specialized programs, and the department is reimbursed for the service.