High-caliber training and safety
Gary West retired in December as director of transportation for GISD. During his tenure, he and the other staff worked to provide strong training for school bus drivers.
GISD prides itself on the type of training available to its drivers. Like most student transportation operations, safety is the highest priority.
“The most noteworthy thing I’ve seen happen while working for the consortium is the staff education we’ve designed,” West says. “We made that a special effort.”
Drivers learn many of the same safety procedures as the aides who work in the classrooms. In addition to learning how to board students with special needs, drivers receive basic medical training to cope with every-day and accidental dangers.
They learn CPR/first aid; Diastat, basic and individual seizure protocol; tracheal and oral suctioning; oxygen storage protocol; vagus nerve stimulation; breathing treatments; simple sign language; and crisis prevention intervention. Drivers also learn how to deal with students with blood-borne illnesses and how to use an EpiPen.
A few staff members are certified Red Cross supervisors and continually educate their peers, keeping them up to date with protocol.
GISD has also built a mock bus inside a trailer for hands-on training purposes. “I’m very proud of that bus,” West says. “We can take it to any district we desire and teach our staff about wheelchair lifts with a working lift. It’s just like the school buses they drive.”
The consortiums also offer a self-made safety manual — Michigan Model for School Bus Maintenance — to their maintenance staff to ensure that all inspections follow the same set of standards.
Maintaining rider satisfaction
Through route efficiency and proper training, the consortiums try to make the riding experience as comfortable as possible.
To measure its success, the program administers a seven-question survey annually to the students’ parents. Questions include: Does your driver communicate with you in a timely and effective manner? Is the bus ride to school consistent within 10 minutes? Do you see your child being treated fairly? Does our program do a good job of meeting your child’s emotional and medical needs while on the bus? Is your child physically comfortable on the bus?
Parents are asked to give the program a letter grade — 96% of families gave an A or B rating, West says. Feedback is worked into training sessions.
The staff strives to transport students in as comfortable an environment as possible. It measures its success by administering a seven-question satisfaction survey annually to the students’ parents.
Plans for the future
Through a 50-50 grant, GISD acquired two new propane buses. Due to impending federal government requirements on emissions standards, the consortiums plan to continually expand their number of green vehicles.
“We’re looking at another EPA rebate program and rethinking our general specifications for buses as we’re almost required to meet certain green diesel emission reduction standards,” West says.
The consortiums are also looking to add more districts and schools to their roster in the coming years.
In addition, on Jan. 7, the consortiums initiated a new program that allows select drivers and aides to work inside the classrooms on an as-needed basis as substitute pair-educators hired for specific students. There are plans in the works to expand this program.
“We think this new program will enhance how drivers treat, relate to and know the kids on their bus,” West says.
Schools buses: 139 (all full size)
Average students transported: 1,200 special-needs students daily; 1,400 career/technical studentsDistricts served: 21
Schools served: 45
Transportation staff: 9 in office; 225 drivers/attendants
Area of service: Genesee County, Mich., with services extending to Lapeer, Shiawassee and surrounding counties