The three major pupil transportation organizations have partnered to create a task force that will offer practical information to help student transportation providers during the COVID-19 pandemic as they prepare for when schools reopen.
The Student Transportation Aligned for Return To School (STARTS) Task Force will be a collaboration among the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), and the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), to research, review, and report on matters relating to COVID-19 and student transportation, according to a news release from the three organizations.
The task force was launched last week, when the presidents of the organizations, Mike LaRocco (NASDPTS), Steve Simmons (NAPT), and John Benish Jr. (NSTA), each sent letters to their respective members highlighting the proposed work of the task force, and asking for volunteers.
“Our goal is simple: we want to provide a variety of practical, tactical information to help school transportation service providers be ready when the time comes to get back to school,” NAPT's Simmons said.
The task force will be divided into three subcommittees: Health and Safety (Students and Employees); Communications, Advocacy, and Public Relations; and Scheduling, Routing, and School Buses.
The overall objective of the task force is to develop specific recommendations, but also to encourage transportation professionals at all levels, to insert themselves into the state and local working groups that are already considering or are about to consider return-to-school proposals.
The task force will work on establishing best practices, guidelines, and resources to enable pupil transporters to continue ensuring that “all students have access to school, with confidence that their health and safety are being maintained,” said NASDPTS’s LaRocco.
“All of us in NASDPTS extend our heartfelt thanks to the many essential workers, including student transportation professionals, who are working for the common good during the pandemic,” he added. “Those in the national student transportation community have always taken pride in our record getting students to and from schools and school activities safely. Now, as never before, our role has expanded to include within our ‘safety’ umbrella new procedures and equipment to keep our employees, students, and communities healthy.”
The task force will convene immediately, with a proposed introductory meeting to be held within the next week, where co-chairs will be announced, volunteers will be placed on one of the subcommittees, and schedules will be decided, so work can begin expeditiously.
“The importance of the STARTS Task Force cannot be overstated. Student transportation is the largest transit system in the country, but the system that we left in mid-March will be dramatically different than the one we re-engage with in August and September,” NSTA’s Benish Jr. said. “The professionals who will dedicate their time and expertise in this endeavor have the knowledge and experience to make sound judgments as we plan a return to school. We believe this information that comes from our collaboration will be embraced by policymakers and the general public.”
Anyone interested in participating on the STARTS Task Force can send an email application to STARTS@napt.org. Due to size constraints, not all applications can be accepted, the organizations noted.