For the 52 bus drivers in ESD 112’s Specialized Transportation Department, the 2015-16 school year was a busy one! Drivers logged more than one million miles on their bus routes, serving students across more than 20 cooperative member districts, as well as the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP). The program experienced significant growth, with the number of students served growing from 273 at the beginning of the school year, to a high of 548. And the program continues to grow in the 2016-17 school year!
Shaun Mettler, ESD 112 Assistant Fiscal Officer is administrator for the program. Mettler says that much of the increase is due to a rise in the number of homeless students in our community. Mettler estimates that as many as 400 of our students are homeless, meaning they are currently living outside of their school of origin. Under the McKinney-Vento act, school districts are required to provide transportation services to homeless students. These students receive door-to-door service, meaning they are transported to and from their current living situation, rather than being dropped off at designated bus stops. This means longer driving routes and more complicated logistics to coordinate student pick up and delivery.
Another challenge is ensuring there are enough buses and drivers to meet the need, as well as juggling ever-changing routes as students move. Mettler says:
Serving this population does have its challenges, but it makes such a difference for students. For some of them, attending school is the only consistent thing in their lives.
ESD 112 is pleased to welcome Jenny Bullard as the new Director of Specialized Transportation in August 2016. Bullard is originally from the area and brings 26 years of experience to ESD 112’s transportation program.