Bonsall Unified School District staff members have developed a Transportation Action Plan intended to address the issue of bus driver shortages and other transportation problems.
The plan was presented to the BUSD board as a non-voting item Nov. 9. Board action in the future may be required for implementation of some items in the plan.
“My hope is that will help to resolve the issue,” said BUSD superintendent David Jones.
The Transportation Action Plan originated from the issue of a limited number of bus drivers. “If a driver’s out we don’t have a backup driver,” Jones said.
That has created concerns from parents who have expressed their sentiments to the school district.
“They were frustrated,” Jones said. “Their children sometimes were late for school.”
Jones decided that specific problems needed to be identified before a solution should be proposed. “I decided to meet with the parents face to face,” he said.
Jones, who became the district’s superintendent in August, had been told that the situation had been ongoing for years. “This has been going on for a while,” he said.
The meetings with the parents also allowed parental input to be used in the development of a plan.
“They came up with some good ideas to help me,” Jones said. “I took those suggestions back to my team and we put together an action plan that I hope will help the children.”
In addition to not being able to provide optimal service when a bus driver is not available, if a bus breaks down a shortage of buses also creates service disruption.
“We don’t have $250,000 to buy a bus,” Jones said.
Contracting with other school districts or transportation providers would be less expensive, although specific agreements would require the support of a school board majority. The proposed solutions to the shortage of bus drivers and a shortage of buses when a breakdown occurs include contracting with neighboring school districts such as the Vista and San Marcos districts.
“We have other backup districts we can call,” Jones said.
Contracting with First Student and other transportation providers could also resolve the issue of insufficient bus drivers or buses, as could a program where the district has interested potential substitute drivers available. The school district will also offer van drivers the option of receiving training to become a certified school bus driver, which would allow those van drivers to become backup bus drivers contingent upon funding for the training and other factors.
The contracting arrangement for drivers could also be used to contract for a non-driver professional who would manage student behavior on bus routes. One of the other items addressed in the action plan is the lack of school site school supervision when buses are late, and the action plan’s proposed solution is to work with principals to ensure that staff members are available to supervise students.
Parents also requested a reimbursement of bus fees, and a one-time reimbursement has been proposed.
The parental input also indicated that parents were not receiving texts or other communication regarding school transportation issues. Data and contact information will be updated, any parent who is not receiving text messages is requested to contact the school site office manager, and error messages from the school’s end will be routed to district employees to resolve the problem.
Some parents indicated that the same students are often late on the same bus, and the district will determine if alternating buses and routes which are late will help mitigate that situation.
On some trips younger students are on the same bus as high school students. That happens only when the school district is short on drivers or buses, so contracts for drivers with other school districts, transportation providers, or substitutes could curtail that scenario. If younger and older students are on the same bus, middle school students will be asked to sit up front and be separated from the high school students.
Sometimes all students on a bus are late for class because the bus driver waits for students who are late at the pickup location. The district’s drivers have been reminded to leave within two minutes of the stated pick-up time.
“I tried to put it in a very simple action plan,” Jones said.
The parents have indicated initial satisfaction with the action plan. “They’re going to want to see does the plan work,” Jones said.
The feedback from the parents whether or not the Transportation Action Plan has resolved the desired issues will also allow for possible refinements.
“I really appreciate their interest, expressing their concerns and working with me to problem-solve,” Jones said of the parents.