In the pupil transportation community, we often talk about the importance of the school bus in the education system. Without yellow buses, many children would be challenged to get to school every day, or they would rely on less-safe forms of transportation.
That message is front and center in efforts to sell the public on the value of school bus transportation, as it should be. But it’s also worth noting that the yellow bus serves communities across the country in other ways, even when school is not in session.
Here are five examples of that concept.
1. Delivering meals. During the school year, many students from low-income families rely on free or reduced-price meals served at school. But in the summer months, those children might have limited access to nutritious meals. That’s where the school bus comes into play. Some districts use buses to deliver free lunches to kids in the community throughout the summer. First Student recently donated a bus to New Haven (Conn.) Public Schools to be used for that very purpose. Durham School Services also recently made a donation for Huntsville (Ala.) City Schools’ Summer Feeding program.
2. Providing Wi-Fi. A newer service that school buses can offer the community is internet access. Wi-Fi routers are available to install on buses so students can use the web to do their homework, which is particularly helpful on long activity trips. But the Wi-Fi-equipped buses can also benefit the community when they’re not transporting students: They can be parked in underprivileged areas to provide free internet access for residents who couldn’t afford to pay for it. Matt Federoff, chief information officer for Vail (Ariz.) School District, shared that idea at the recent Canadian Pupil Transportation Conference.
3. Helping in emergencies. There have been countless instances of school buses evacuating people or transporting supplies during natural disasters. That was the case in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. In 2011, school buses were used to evacuate residents from an incoming tsunami in Crescent City, California. More recently, pupil transporters delivered bottled water and filters in Flint, Michigan, after the local water supply was found to be contaminated with lead.
4. Event transportation. Yellow buses sometimes shuttle participants in large-scale athletic competitions and other events. As one example, Elk Grove (Calif.) Unified School District dispatched 72 school buses to transport runners for the California International Marathon in December. In June, employees at Cascade Student Transportation volunteered to transport Special Olympics athletes in the recent State Summer Games in Idaho.
5. Shelter from the elements. School buses have even been used as shelter in harsh weather. In January 2014, with temperatures hovering in the single digits in Nashville, Tennessee, residents who needed a break from the bitter cold could climb aboard a “Mobile Warming Station” — also known as a yellow school bus. The Nashville Office of Emergency Management partnered with Metro Nashville Public Schools to bring these innovative Mobile Warming Stations to the city’s streets.
These examples — and there are certainly others that could be mentioned — all reinforce the importance of the school bus in our society. It is a multifaceted asset that no city or town should be without.
Do your yellow buses serve the community in other ways? If so, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.