The Chinle Unified School District (CUSD), an Arizona district with seven public schools serving more than 3,000 students, has been awarded a $2-million state grant to improve student transportation capabilities.
The school district, largest in the Navajo Nation in student count and geographic area, encompasses eight communities spread across territory that’s roughly the size of Connecticut. According to the A for Arizona awardee report, the CUSD’s current capacity leaves 833 students without a seat on a bus, and unimproved roads in the area leave buses – and children – stranded in ditches.
“This rural Arizona school district in the Navajo Nation proposes to support their long-distance travelers with direct-to-parent transportation stipends as well as getting vehicles that are inoperable due to road conditions back in service more quickly,” the report states. “Their proposal also includes transportation staff recruitment and retention programs and converting some of their fleet to modern electric vehicles that will save them hundreds of thousands in gas and maintenance costs.”
The report indicates that CUSD wants to use transportation improvements to increase student attendance, deploy parent surveys to determine customer service satisfaction, enhance driver retention, and reduce transit time (including the average time in transit for students who live more than 30 miles from their school).
“Arizona has a system of public school options envied across the country, but transportation barriers to these quality schools are a reality for far too many Arizona families,” said Gov. Doug Ducey in a news release issued by A for Arizona. “Arizona kids deserve access to a classroom that meets their needs, and the Arizona Transportation Modernization Grants Program is providing new ways to make this a reality. These solutions will strengthen opportunities for K-12 kids and their families in rural communities and all areas of the state.”
Other recipients include:
- Arizona Autism Charter Schools ($2 million): The state’s first and only autism-focused charter school needs resources to help families with transportation services.
- City of Chandler ($2 million): The city wants to learn from a two-year study how to better serve needs of students through a micro-transit van program.
- Osborn School District No. 8 ($2 million): This district in central Phoenix wants to use electric buses and improved technology to reduce absenteeism and increase student achievement.
- Tolleson Union High School District ($2 million): TUHSD, a predominantly Hispanic school community with specialized career paths, wants to improve options for vulnerable students who may be homeless or have high mobility in foster care.
- Crane Elementary School District No. 13 ($1.5 million): This district in Yuma wants to establish transportation hubs for homeless students and carpooling families, and to serve more neighborhoods on the fringe and beyond the district, including a nearby military base.
Emily Anne Gullickson, founder and CEO of A for Arizona, said the more than $18 million awarded to seed a total of 24 proposals across the state should help “move past an antiquated education transportation system and respond to the student-focused needs of the 21st century.”
“It is evident by the competitive cycle and the number of high-quality proposals that school leaders, entrepreneurs, and community partners have forward-thinking and innovative solutions ready to address K-12 transportation needs," Gullickson said. "This first round of awardees will serve as a catalyst to tearing down long-standing access barriers and inform playbooks on how others can deliver multiple transit options to better serve every K-12 student.”