Special-needs transportation covers a wide variety of unique scenarios. It takes logistics, medical knowledge, and expert time management and organizational skills to provide exact services for each student, all while complying with the complex federal and state laws and individual school districts’ rules.
Special-needs buses must be individually tailored but roll like it is just another day on any other school bus. To accomplish this balancing act, transportation departments and school staff responsible for these students must work as a team to ensure that all the needs for special-education students are being met. It requires flawless communication among all parties and clear standards. When there are not smooth communication venues and clear policies, special-needs transportation can be a funnel where school funds flow out at an alarming rate. When the school staff responsible for special-needs students works as a team with the transportation staff that provides those services, the result is cost savings to the school district.
Many times, the school staff instructs the transportation department on which students will require special transportation and how they should be transported. The result is often a crippling transportation budget, overcrowded buses or too many buses on the road. When schools work in conjunction with transportation personnel, making certain that only special-needs students receive the special transportation services and that the students are receiving exactly what they need, school transportation departments can be confident that they are providing efficient service.
Establish comprehensible policies
There are a few simple steps that school districts can take to establish effective special-needs transportation collaboration between schools and transportation departments. First, transportation departments must develop clear policies that mirror federal IDEA laws and state laws that govern special-needs student transportation.
Districts can provide valid services without providing services that are more of a convenience than an actual need. By maintaining clear rules that follow the idea of the least restrictive environment rather than convenience for the district or parents, and by keeping the needs of the students at the forefront of all decisions, transportation crews can inventively transport students while providing for every individual need.
Once the policies are in place, schools and transportation staff must agree that only under extreme, unusual circumstances should those policies be violated. Once an exception is made, it is very easy to repeat the exception. After time, the exceptions become past practice and policies are nothing more than old ideas. Keeping policies current and following them provides consistency among special-needs school staff and transportation, which results in less frustration for parents, bus drivers who can be confident about the policies they follow during day-to-day operations, and one less avenue for loss of funds.