KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. — Bus drivers and aides for Upper Merion Area School District are having an easier time of properly securing students’ wheelchairs in buses thanks to a training tool that was conceived by the supervisor of transportation.
The district’s maintenance department built a mock-up of the floor in a special-needs bus with retractable straps for securing a wheelchair in a bus. Frederick Remelius, director of operations, told SBF that Supervisor of Transportation Marsha Wagner came up with the idea to build the mock-up of the bus floor.
“We’ve always trained drivers and aides in the [wheelchair tiedown] procedure because it is very important to know how to properly secure wheelchairs in a bus,” Remelius said. “But it can be difficult to train employees inside of a small bus because of the crowded conditions and because the walls of the bus prevent employees from gathering around the wheelchair to easily observe a demonstration of the proper tiedown procedure.”
He said that the district used the mock-up of the bus floor for the first time during its annual back-to-school in-service day this year, and it enabled an experienced bus aide to easily train bus drivers and other aides in how to perform this critical safety task for special-needs students.
“It also enabled the trainees to easily practice the procedure several times in the training area instead of having to do it inside of a crowded bus,” Remelius added. “They could step back to get an overview of the whole procedure or step in close to see the fine details as needed. Doing the training inside of a bus was limited to a couple of employees at a time, but as the picture shows, using a mock-up of the floor enabled a dozen or more employees to gather around and receive initial or refresher training.”
Remelius said Upper Merion Area School District’s transportation department has about 50 special-needs students for whom school bus service is provided. The department is currently transporting six students who use a wheelchair.