COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. What have we learned so far in our COVID journey? As it relates to student transportation, an assistant superintendent at Salem-Keizer Public Schools said the question really is which comes first: the chicken or the egg? Meaning, do you set the number of students that you are able to bus or do you set the number of kids you can have in the classroom with appropriate social distancing?
The first step is asking numerous big-picture questions to assess your ability to provide service to your community. Some examples are: What will school look like in the fall? What needs to be accomplished in the next two to three months? How has the district’s mission changed and how will you adapt your services to accomplish it? What will the changes be in how educational instruction is achieved?
The second step is to identify the best questions to answer first. To do this, you could hire a consultant. Many districts are hiring educational professionals to help them with their instructional models. Still, that will not change your capacity and resource challenges.
The next question to ask is which students have ridden the bus in the past but will now be transported by their parents, which parents plan to keep their children home, and how will you find out? (And be sure to utilize all the available resources in the district. For example, find out who supervises districtwide communication that could help find some of the answers from parents.)
Asking and seeking answers to the right questions can help nail down some steps to take to move forward with plans even as the situation with the pandemic and its impact on school start remains uncertain in so many parts of the U.S.Having a checklist of questions to refer to can help. I have prepared one that addresses issues such as making plans compatible with new procedures at your schools, route planning, staffing, and cleaning protocols.
Michael Shields is the former director of transportation services for Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Oregon and the founder of Leadership Coaching and Consulting LLC. The company’s purpose is to help others improve their systems in relationships (staff, drivers, unions, and students), develop a sustainable culture, improve personal and technical performance, provide equitable services, and reduce costs through mentoring and coaching. Shields has over 40 years of leadership experience in the private and public sector. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (503) 362-4408.