Amid Fall Semester Crunch Time, Take a Pause

Nicole Schlosser
Posted on September 25, 2019
File photo
File photo

With the new school year in full swing and the pace quickening, it’s important to remember to pause and take a breath every now and then.

As is shown in our Top 100 School District Fleets list, data, and related news, pupil transportation teams across the U.S. are up to their necks in work, managing hundreds of buses and transporting thousands to hundreds of thousands of students in many cases. Moreover, they are continually striving to improve the process. (Thanks to all of you who filled out our survey during the very busy back-to-school period. And for those of you who didn't receive the survey but work for a district with 150 or more school buses in route service, please email to receive the survey next year.)

Here are just some of the projects and developments unfolding at districts nationwide, both at those on the Top 100 list and those with smaller fleets:

• Catoosa County (Ga.) Public Schools recently held its first annual School Bus Safety Summit, training 440 school bus professionals, said Jerene Johnson, the transportation manager for the district, in the survey. Government officials and representatives from major school bus manufacturers also attended. Gov. Brian Kemp was recognized for his signature on SB25, which reversed a provision in a law that let motorists pass a stopped bus if they are on the opposite side of a highway divided only by a turn lane.

• Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston, no. 26 on the Top 100 list, will be replacing one-third of its fleet in the next two years with 2019 bond funding, and will be constructing its sixth transportation center, scheduled to open in 2022-2023, Kayne Smith, the director of transportation for the district, noted in the survey.

• El Paso (Texas) Independent School District, which came in at no. 99, is working toward a 100% propane bus fleet by 2022, plans to offer a parent-facing app by the 2020-21 school year, and is implementing key performance indicators (KPIs) to improve efficiency, said Oscar Anchondo, the district’s director of transportation.

• Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools, which took spot no. 8, developed a discipline-tracking system to provide bus drivers with more support from schools, and assigned supervisors to support teams of bus drivers. (Read more about this district’s innovations here.)

• Harford County Public Schools in Bel Air, Md., which holds position no. 47 this year, is deploying live GPS for its special-needs buses for the 2019-20 school year, said Cathy Bendis, the district’s director of transportation.

• Northside (Texas) Independent School District recruited over 150 drivers during the 2017-18 school year — at least a 200% increase over the previous year — and started this school year with the highest number of drivers it has had in the past 10 years, said John Ramirez, the assistant director of transportation. The district is no. 30 on the list.

• Michael Slife, executive director of transportation for Rockford (Ill.) Public Schools 205, which came in at no. 71, told SBF that the district dealt with a driver shortage by moving from a two-tier to a three-tier bus system. It decreased its number of routes from 200 to 160, needing 40 fewer drivers.

Rockford (Ill.) Public Schools 205 dealt with a driver shortage by moving from a two-tier to a three-tier bus system. It decreased its number of routes from 200 to 160. Photo courtesy Michael Slife
Rockford (Ill.) Public Schools 205 dealt with a driver shortage by moving from a two-tier to a three-tier bus system. It decreased its number of routes from 200 to 160. Photo courtesy Michael Slife
“No one loses a job and we will start the school year fully staffed,” he added. 

• Shenendehowa (N.Y.) Central School District has been seeing recruitment success with its Test the Bus driving event, Alfred Karam, the director of transportation for the district, reported in the survey. The district’s transportation department also introduced GPS tablets in its fleet which are “a big hit” with substitute drivers and prospective applicants.

While working to accomplish great feats such as these (and one could argue that simply transporting thousands of students to and from school safely every day is an accomplishment in and of itself), don’t forget that health, rest, and restorative activity are also important. (Coincidentally, it’s also a hectic time of year for us here at SBF, so we need to heed this advice as well.)

Amid the hustle and bustle of the fall semester, especially as we gear up for the holidays, remember to take a minute to slow down and breathe.

Related Topics: alternative fuels, behavior management, driver recruitment/retention, driver shortage, efficiency, GPS, key performance indicators (KPIs), propane, school bus replacement

Nicole Schlosser Executive Editor
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