In the pupil transportation business, when the last school bell of the year rings and the last bus makes its way back to the yard, it’s time to sit back, relax and not think about yellow buses for a couple of months.
Does that sound like your summer plans? No?
In reality, summer can be a busy time for school bus operations, with a variety of tasks needed to prepare for the next school year: route planning, recruiting, taking delivery of new buses, maintenance, in-service training, etc.
Also, soon after the school year ends, many people who work in pupil transportation take what could be described as a “busman’s holiday”: They attend an industry conference. So while most students have set aside their books for the summer, school transportation professionals take some time to focus on learning.
I recently got to take part in the Oregon Pupil Transportation Association (OPTA) conference in Eugene. It was a great experience for a number of reasons.
One was that I had another chance to chat with my former school bus driver, Diane Clinkscales, who is now a Head Start transportation coordinator in Bend, Oregon, where I used to live. (Diane and I initially reconnected at the Transporting Students With Disabilities conference in 2011.) We both gave presentations at the OPTA conference, which is an interesting twist of fate considering that a couple of decades ago, I was a passenger on her bus.
I also got to meet many new (to me) pupil transportation people from around Oregon. For example, I talked with Denice Blake and the rest of the transportation team from Bend-La Pine Schools. They told me about some of the benefits they’ve experienced with their propane school buses, including reduced fuel costs, fewer oil changes and the elimination of a bluish haze that used to appear around the yard when buses were started up in the morning.
Attending the OPTA gathering was also a great experience because I got to see firsthand how vital these summer conferences are for the success of our industry. I saw how transportation managers shared their insights and experiences to help their colleagues. I saw how the relationships that are built through pupil transportation associations can lead to new opportunities. And I saw how committed people in our industry are, even in the summer, to learning more about their profession and developing their skills.
I hope to cross paths with you at a summer conference in the future. If you’re attending the Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference in Texas in mid-July, I’ll see you there.
Thomas McMahon is executive editor of School Bus Fleet.