One of the many admirable traits of the school bus community is a willingness to share great ideas.
We see it frequently at industry conferences — pupil transportation leaders freely revealing their secrets to success, looking to gain nothing more than to help their colleagues provide safe and efficient school bus service for students.
A quote from NSTA President Todd Monteferrario in our “5 Questions” department points to the reason that people in this industry are eager to collaborate with and support each other: “We have all dedicated our careers to helping the young people of our communities have access to education at school. Our work is truly an investment in the future generations.”
School bus driver Freddie Yazzie has taken that same notion to heart. Yazzie came up with a creative way to invest in the future of his students on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona. The interior of his vehicle — dubbed the “Legacy of Excellence Bus” — displays posters that showcase the academic, athletic, and professional successes of former riders, with the goal of motivating his current passengers to go further in their education.
“It’s hard for Native American kids to get off of the reservation here and succeed somewhere,” Yazzie said. “As a bus driver, I’m trying to inspire kids.”
Inspiration and looking to the future were key themes of the recent Innovation Summit that school bus manufacturer IC Bus held in Chicago. Discussions covered such forward-thinking topics as connected vehicles, ride-sharing services, and Wi-Fi on school buses.
While Wi-Fi hasn’t yet been widely implemented on school buses, there have been positive results from school districts that have begun testing it. Some have reported that the wireless internet access has led to increased homework completion rates and improved behavior on the bus.
The benefits have also extended beyond the bus ride: Some districts have parked Wi-Fi-equipped buses in disadvantaged areas to provide free internet access for families that don’t have it in their homes. That’s what Coachella Valley Unified School District in California has done.
As another example, Huntsville (Texas) Independent School District has equipped 15 school buses with Wi-Fi. The district’s school buses cover 644 square miles, and many passengers have long rides, which prompted the search for a way to help students use that time productively.
“We really wanted to be able to provide wireless access to our students, because some students are on the bus quite the length of time — some up to 90 minutes,” Huntsville Superintendent Dr. Howell Wright said in a video about the district’s “ConnectED Transportation” project (watch the video at schoolbusfleet.com/Apr17g).
Now, those Huntsville students can use their Chromebooks or tablets to access their textbooks and homework on the bus.
Great ideas come in many forms. Some are simple and low-tech, like Freddie Yazzie’s student success display. Others make use of the latest technology, like the onboard Wi-Fi solutions. But what all of these innovations have in common is that they promote the role of school buses in student achievement.
That link will continue to be vital for the future of school buses, as well as the students who ride them.