Q & A - EWSD Transportation System, Fall 2018

  • How many drivers do you currently have?

    Posted by:
    • 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

    Comments (-1)
  • How many drivers do we need to make this all work right now?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • Would 11 new drivers solve everything?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • Why did we change school times?

    Posted by:
    • 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.
    Comments (-1)
  • Why didn’t high school start times change this year?

    Posted by:
    • 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.
    Comments (-1)
  • Can we go back to the start and end times we had last year?

    Posted by:
    • 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.
    Comments (-1)
  • Why are you busing tuition students (and not residents who live in-district)?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • Where did the money for transportation go last year?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • What about the cost for students to park at the high school?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • What about parking capacity at the high school?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • Is the high school going to add bike racks?

    Posted by:

    Additional bike racks will be added before the beginning of school.

    We have approximately 25 or 30 individuals using bike travel to/from the high school. We’ll look to double the capacity of racks to accommodate any increases.

    Comments (-1)
  • What are high school students supposed to do when waiting for rides?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • Is the district adding crossing guards?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • What about adding daycare centers that provide after school care in the bus routes?

    Posted by:

     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.

    Comments (-1)
  • Why are the riding times so long for students who are bused?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can the district use its own vehicles to pick up students?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can we use Uber/Lyft?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • What about an "all call" for commercial drivers?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • What does it take to become a bus driver?

    Posted by:
    • 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
    Comments (-1)
  • Any progress from last year?

    Posted by:
    • 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.
    Comments (-1)
  • What plans are in place to help high school students?

    Posted by:
    • 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
    Comments (-1)
  • Are Essex Junction residents going to be reimbursed for the significant expense of sharing transport

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • How early does my school building open and who will be providing supervision?

    Posted by:

    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.

    Comments (-1)
  • What happens when winter comes?

    Posted by:

    District is working with Public Works.  They understand the needs and are willing to work with us on sidewalks and winter priorities.  When winter weather is a transportation safety concern, we cancel school.

    Comments (-1)