Q & A - EWSD Transportation System, Fall 2018
- Mountain Transit - Essex Town 13 drivers
- Mountain Transit - Islands & Georgia 2 drivers
- CCR Transportation - Westford K-8 4 drivers
- CCR Transportation - Westford HS 2 drivers
- Mountain Transit - Essex Town - Special Ed 2 drivers
- EWSD - Essex Junction - Special Ed 3 drivers
Total: 26 total regular drivers
There are 26 drivers under contract and ready for the first day of school, doing the routes which have been published.
We need five additional drivers, doing two routes in the morning and two routes in the afternoon, to resume service to all the high school students historically served would be transported.
And, we need six more additional drivers, doing two routes in the morning and two routes in the afternoon, to expand service to Hiawatha, Summit, Fleming, Albert D. Lawton and the remaining EHS students.
At present there are 11 drivers proceeding through testing and licensing.
No. Aggressively doubling up on morning and afternoon routes lengthens wait times before and after school.
To improve service, better isolate grade levels, arrive/depart closer to the time school starts/ends, and lessen overall route times, additional drivers would be necessary.
- Common duration for the school day at all grade levels.
- Older students start school later, younger students start school earlier.
- To help parents with children at multiple schools - staggered times by school and eliminated the 25 - 65 minute gap between K-5 times and middle school times
- Align start and stop times across grade levels to allow for recurring teacher collaboration and improve collective efficacy.
- EHS changes were delayed for one year to take further community input and coordinate fully with the Center for Technology, Essex.
- Both the high school and the Center for Technology, Essex serve students throughout the region. Changing times for either impacts the other school at Educational Drive, but it also has an impact on thirteen sending communities.
- A unilateral move by either school could adversely impact students and jeopardize millions in tuition revenue.
- Going backwards at this point could potentially just shift impact, causing different issues.
- There would be a major consequences for parents and staff members who have made the adjustment to the new times, with their work and child care timing.
- Master schedules, which have been worked on for months, would need to be scrapped and redone, a week before school.
- There would be significant challenges with schedules of employees shared among schools and grade levels.
While busing of tuition students utilizes a driver and bus, which otherwise be serving our in-district students, the loss of tuition revenue which could result and would almost certainly result in future years would be severely jeopardized.
In FY18 the district budgeted to spend approximately $1.6 million on to-and-from school transportation.
It was anticipated that by not performing transportation in Essex Junction there would be approximately a $600,000 savings.
At the end of FY18 the district actually underspent transportation by $760,000.
These surplus funds will go to lower the tax burden in FY20.
The costs for a parking permit has been eliminated for this school year, for both EHS and CTE students. We will work hard to accommodate everyone who wishes to have a pass. Everyone must register for a parking pass or risk being towed.
We are working to identify locations where we can add additional parking on-site, temporarily for this year.
We are working with the Town and Village government, as well as the State, to see what might be possible in the timeframe we have before school starts.
We will also be bringing in temporary help at the beginning of school to help with traffic and parking.
The high school will be extending the hours of the EHS Library to be available to students arriving early to school, or waiting after school for a ride home.
Hours for this school year will be 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The district has historically placed crossing guards at high traffic points in the Village and is certainly open to evaluate which crossings need to be added or changed.
Unfortunately, over the last few years the district has had a number of retirements that have strained our ability to be everywhere where a crossing guard could be helpful. As the district works to recruit the next generation of crossing guards, we’re in the position where we must begin prioritizing locations and crossings.
A survey was distributed on Friday to families who will be immediately receiving transportation, asking them to inform the district of the alternative pick up and drop off locations they require (i.e daycare centers, extended family, care providers, etc). We’ve received approximately 360 responses so far. We’ll be entering the data into individual student records this week and adjusting bus assignments.
We plan on circulating another round of this same survey to families of HIA, SUM, FLM, and ADL soon after the school year starts.
The routes serving the most rural parts of Essex have traditionally been 54 to 59 minutes long.
In the current iteration of routes there are five (5) that exceed that duration, one by as much as 30 minutes.
Currently the routing assumes 100% ridership and emphasized right hand side of the road pickups for K-5 students. As we collect information on ridership and work with individual parents regarding logistics of roadside pickup, these times can be lessened and for some individual riders, lessened considerably.
Employees and registered district volunteers, using school vehicles, can pick up and drop off students.
The vehicle must have a capacity of no more than six and have seat belts for all occupants. The driver must have a valid fingerprint supported criminal background check and a Department of Children and Family (DCF) check on file with the school district. A Vermont DMV driving record check must also be performed before any transporting of students occurs.
We currently have 4 vans and are renting 6 more which will give us a fleet of 10 minivans. If necessary, we can increase the number of rented vehicles.
Parents are free to use these services if they choose. It would be a personal decision and at personal expense.
Due to many factors (i.e. the need for fingerprint supported criminal background checks, DCF checks, and driver record checks) the school district can not utilize these services.
Obtaining a commercial drivers license is one of the big steps in becoming a licensed bus driver. However, a CDL alone is not enough to drive a school bus.
To drive a school bus a person must have their school bus endorsement. This process requires attending an 8-hour clinic, passing a written test, and pass a road skills test. With the current backlog for testing and the required “waiting periods” between steps, the process would take five to six weeks.
- Willingness to work a non-traditional schedule, e.g. “split shift”
- CDL physical
- Drug test
- Fingerprint supported VT criminal background checks
- VT DMV motor vehicle record check
- DOT physical by a certified practitioner
- VT school bus clinic (8-hour course)
- VT DMV Commercial Driver License (CDL) written tests
- VT DMV CDL Skills (road) test
- Route training & practice
- Worked with transportation vendor to increase starting wages (up 14%).
- Greatly improved driver recruitment efforts - yielding dozens of inquiries and applicants.
- 3 new drivers licensed
- 4 new drivers in testing & licensing stage
- 3-5 new drivers going through training
- Brought route design and management fully in-house to have more control and increased opportunity to optimize.
- Established district-wide procedures and operating practices intended to create more alignment and equity within our transportation system.
- Add additional overflow parking
- Add more bike racks
- Alert Village/Town officials and bring in additional personnel to assist with traffic
- Adjust pricing for this year so parking passes are free for EHS and CTE students
- Extended EHS Library hours - before and after school
- Introduce a free public transportation option through GMT
Are Essex Junction residents going to be reimbursed for the significant expense of sharing transport
costs that they are not receiving?
No. The cost for transportation within the school district is paid for through a Statewide property tax, not local assessments per community. This specific cost is added to all other expenses forecasted for the year to create a total expense budget. Then local revenues reduce the total amount our communities requires (Educational Spending) from State of Vermont in the form of an Educational Support Grant.
All school buildings will be open for personal car/walking drop off 15 minutes before the start of school except for Westford, which has a previous system in place. There will be supervision during that time.
EHS library will be open to students from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Y program in the town will operate as usual beginning at 7 a.m.
Roughly 350, assuming ridership is similar to past years.
EWSD Policy C10: Prevention of Harassment, Hazing and Bullying of Students is not limited to the school day. It covers transportation to school, including on city buses. We have spoken to GMT and they have a procedure in place for drivers to report issues. They will permit us to retrieve and examine the camera feeds from each bus should administration need to review them.
Are there buses for extracurriculars like sporting events? Why can't we use these buses to transport
Sporting events and extracurricular busing is handled via a different contract, which is not changing. These drivers choose to work these shifts, which are not always consistent, and do not require multiple hour availability -every- weekday morning and every weekday afternoon.
We are in contact with the Department of Public Works to prioritize walking zones. They are on board and have offered their full cooperation. In instances where sidewalks are impassable, our Superintendent can decide to cancel individual schools.
We will implement assigned seating plans and our transportation manager will work with each bus operator to ensure compliance.
It is District procedure that a parent must be present for K-1 drop offs and that will not change. If one is not present, we have existing procedures in place to ensure parent/guardian contact.
Yes. Parking pass applications will be available throughout the year (and do not expire).
Revised routes including these will be out closer to the start of school to ensure we have as many responses as possible, so likely Monday (08.27.18) or Tuesday (08.28.18). We realize that this is close to the first day of school, but we are hoping to gather as many accurate responses as possible to the ridership survey. More survey responses means greater potential for cutting down excessive ride times.
Maple Street does have a history of traffic congestion, but by looking into opening the Junction schools 30 minutes early instead of 15, a police officer at this location should not be necessary.
We have been hesitant to provide times based off unknown factors such as passing or failing drivers tests. That said, we currently have 11 drivers in various stages of training or awaiting their testing and licensure. As soon as they are fully vetted, they will be assigned routes.
...for EHS pickups and drop-offs?
There is substantial variation across the state and country when it comes to segregating buses based on the age of students. There isn't a 'right' answer, but the District feels most comfortable keeping EHS students separate from K-5. Where grades can be picked up together with minimal issue and effective routing, they will be.
While we are speaking to the DPW and the Town Offices, the decision to add bike paths and walking routes is handled by our municipalities. We anticipate continuing to work with them to identify areas of need, but we also encourage giving feedback directly to the Selectboard and the Village Trustees.
If not, each and every driver needs a secure system to drop off each kid directly to a parent or guardian before driving away.
Mass stops, while new in Essex, are being used throughout Vermont communities successfully and also allow us to re-establish busing at a faster pace. District policy does require a parent be present for all kindergarten and first grade students.
There are a number of state and federal regulations that limit our ability to use these contractors en masse. We are looking to use these contractors selectively where we can and also make use of existing district vehicles and staff.
Some students have an hour plus ride each way.
The initial routes have always assumed 100% ridership, which we know has never been the case as many parents choose to drop kids off, or carpooling occurs. These times will be reduced with our ridership survey results as we then adjust routes for actual student participation.
Where possible, we have sought to avoid the need to cross streets for our younger students so getting picked up on one side of the road may be impacting your drop-off/pick-up time and if you are picked up earlier in the route. We are reaching out to these families in particular to inquire if they are comfortable with their students crossing streets which may allow them off the buses earlier.
As a potential solution to retain drivers have you considered a retention bonus?
In cases where applicants leave before becoming drivers, these are usually earlier in the process or a result of a failed drug test, background check, or driving test. Once fully hired and working, the turnover is relatively low. Of the three drivers we've lost from last year, for example, two were retirements and one moved out of state. The sign on bonus being offered to potential applicants is not paid unless they complete training and begin working.