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Articles: Transportation

To keep children safe and prevent school bus accidents, school districts across the nation are cracking down on drivers who pass school buses when children are getting on or off.

The Sand Springs (Okla.) School District just added multiple cameras to its fleet of buses, including on the exterior school-bus stop sign arm. “Cars cannot see students loading and unloading from the bus, and students cannot see an oncoming car. There is no way the driver could stop before hitting the child,” according to Sean Parker, assistant director of transportation for the district.

This year, parents in need of information on bus routes before the first week of school in Palm Beach County (Fla.) School District turned to a new user-friendly program using Google maps developed by Jerry Nyman, the district’s information technology director. Before the Find My Bus Stop application was developed in the fall of 2009, parents had to call the district to find out which bus their child should take, unlike other districts that notify families.

Closure of an interstate highway means many things: traffic backups, lengthy detours, confusing back roads, and a constant headache for the frequent traveler. But what does it mean for school buses when the dependable flow of interstate traffic is the lifeblood for an entire transportation operation?

That's exactly the question the St. Louis-based Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC) had to address when the Missouri Department of Transportation announced the two-step closure of a 10-mile stretch of I-64, five miles per year from January 2008 through December 2009.

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Text messaging while driving in Lee County (Fla.) Public Schools is prohibited. It is the first district in Florida— and possibly the nation—to keep its policies caught up with the technology.

In March 2010, the Lee County Board of Education amended the district vehicle policy to prohibit employees from text messaging while driving a district vehicle or while driving a personally-owned vehicle on district business. The district has 12,000 employees and a fleet of over 650 school buses.

The bus driver overheard a middle school student say as he was walking off the bus at the end of the day, "I am going to get several of you tomorrow on the bus and blow you away for making fun of me."

The very tragic death of a Connecticut teenager involved in a school bus accident has reopened debate about the merits of seat belts on school buses. On January 9, Vikas Parikh, a 16-year-old student at Rocky Hill (Conn.) High School, died from a traumatic head injury when his school bus struck another car and plunged down an embankment.

Proving once again to be a leader in school technology, the Vail (Ariz.) School District is now providing wireless access in school buses. In early December 2009, the district installed its first wireless router attached to a cellular 3G network in one high school bus. Although the district paid for this out of pocket, officials hope to obtain a $15,000 Qwest Foundation Grant from Qwest Communications to fund routers in the 20 buses that run the longest high school routes.

Education funding cuts in this tough economy mean current students may once again tell their grandchildren, “When I was your age, I had to walk to school uphill—both ways.”

For example, a budget shortfall in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Texas means that students living inside a two-mile radius of its 81 campuses will walk or carpool to school.

“We’re not cutting fat,” says Kelli Duram, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District assistant superintendent for communication. “We’re cutting into bone marrow now.”

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