Improving student transportation: 3 takeaways from the new school year

Alternative vehicles allow districts to support student success by providing a way to achieve better attendance.
Mitch Bowling
Mitch Bowling
Mitch Bowling is the CEO at EverDriven Technologies, a provider of supplemental and alternative student transportation for school districts nationwide. He leads the EverDriven team as they aim to provide equal opportunities, mobility, and peace of mind to the most vulnerable in our communities

As we head deeper into the fall semester, schools and districts across the country are still dealing with challenging transportation issues. It’s been well documented that bus driver shortages, long routes, and lack of transportation resources for students with disabilities and those that qualify under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are all major concerns for parents and school districts. Unfortunately, these challenges aren’t going away anytime soon, but there are solutions that can effectively address them.

As the CEO of EverDriven, a tech-enabled alternative transportation provider that works with school districts to supplement the bus system, I’ve seen firsthand how secure, consistent, and agile transportation can help both students and districts successfully navigate these challenges. By utilizing alternative vehicles, districts can support student success by providing a way to achieve better attendance. Solving logistical and financial burdens for families with unique transportation needs ultimately increasing their access to equal education.

Back to school is a great time to observe and understand the challenges associated with coordinating student transportation. Here are three observations we have seen as we have worked with school districts around the country to navigate the complexities around student transportation.

1. Expect the unexpected with students

Between Aug. 1st and Sept. 16, our drivers completed more than 21,000 unplanned student trips for the districts we serve. Why? Because life is full of unexpected events.

Students transfer to different schools at the last minute for a variety of reasons. For example, children experiencing housing insecurity often change addresses, even going outside the district, yet still require transportation to and from school. In fact, research shows that 10% of a state’s student population, on average, will switch schools often, with poor and rural children being disproportionately affected.

These events create challenges for districts and therefore the need to reassess the most efficient and effective ways to get kids to school. In some cases, it can be challenging for district buses alone to meet these unexpected demands, therefore many districts choose to partner with a contractor to supplement to bus service.

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A commitment to safety combined with proprietary technology enables districts and parents to know exactly where their students are while being transported and gives them the ability to easily schedule and adjust trips based on their transportation needs at any given time.

2. Prioritize consistency and stability to navigate critical driver shortages

All students, but especially students with disabilities, thrive on consistency. However, critical driver shortages are posing a challenge. To combat this, many districts have added an alternative transportation solution to handle disruptions and meet the various transportation needs of all their students.

By doing so, they have added a sense of stability in their daily routines, sending the same driver to the same students, whenever possible, and picking students up in the same vehicle every day. This can help reduce stress and set students up for a happier, more productive day at school.

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Prioritizing consistency and stability will also benefit parents, who deserve to know that their child is in the care of a familiar person and in a familiar vehicle each day. A vetted and trained monitor—provided either by the district or the contractor—can keep the student and driver safe and provide support for a calm ride. Prioritizing consistency and support in transportation can go a long way to maintaining a sense of trust between parents and the districts.

3. Hold your partners to the same high standards

It goes without saying that any transportation professional would want to partner with companies that have the same high standards when it comes to student safety, data security, and communication. Setting the bar for vetting qualified subcontracted drivers means require them to become SafeRide Certified before driving a single student. Transportation contractors can and should work with the department of education of each state to ensure drivers are meeting specific safety standards.

Technology can also allow for real-time monitoring and route planning, and it can also protect the privacy of student information. With student welfare and well-being the No. 1 priority, student safety is essential for whatever transportation solution a school district elects to use.

I think we would all agree that our education system works hard to ensure that each generation of students receives every possible opportunity for success in life. Providing families and districts with safe, reliable, and efficient transportation solutions is key to putting students in the classroom.

Solving school transportation challenges may require dedication and outside-the-box thinking, but with high-quality alternative student transportation, we are one important step closer to getting the job done.

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