HomeBlogsReturning to ‘Normal’ Requires Thinking, School Bus Service to Evolve

Returning to ‘Normal’ Requires Thinking, School Bus Service to Evolve

I would like to share a thought from a good friend, Andrew Scott, director of operations for AAA Barricade, a traffic control company that operates in Colorado and Utah. We recently had a “social distancing” conversation.

“The reality of it is we deal with hazards every day and implement controls,” Scott told me. “COVID-19 is another hazard we have to control to keep our employees safe.”

Your school district leadership teams are adept at managing the challenging and changing health and safety risks in the workplace and implementing measures to keep people safe. This has been clear at our school and work sites, where teams have swiftly adapted to new processes in order to continue work. I want to commend you all for continuing to go above and beyond to monitor safety at our work sites.

As we return to our worksites and communities, please keep in mind that there are no problems, only situations. From each situation arises an opportunity. So, for us in the pupil transportation industry, it is about how we are going to be able to respond to our district’s direction (budget, student learning and employee engagement) and, how are we going to be able to return to work under the “new norm.” I believe everybody wants to keep chasing this normal. When will our previous normal come back?

I would like to bluntly say, the old normal is not coming back!

So, where do we go from here? There will be things that we implement that become the new normal. Don’t be afraid of that as who says the new norm cannot be better? Why can’t we be intentional to make this experience better for our employees and students after we get through this? We all have a role to play, and we will help each other row this boat together. We can all look at our challenges as situations and create opportunities that make our respective district great places for your employees and students. Every single one of us has an impact on how we actually change the future of our operations under the new norm.

In our new normal, districts are challenged to embrace the “What If” way of thinking to support a hybrid-learning model in the fall. We are looking at the reality of extended school days, split sessions, alternating school attendance days, and the continued integration of online/remote learning.

Related: STN Podcast Episode 5 – Here’s the Plan: A New Normal for Schools and Busing, Post-Coronavirus
Related: Colorado Districts Piece Together COVID-19 Puzzle for New School Year

Each learning model creates a new and different test on your staff and resources. Will you have enough drivers or school buses or will operating costs increase when district budgets are tight? If a split session/extended school day hybrid option is proposed to you, then you are exploring longer days for drivers and bus assistants, with three shifts? Alternatively, will this model eliminate multiple schools tiered routes to one school, which could be less efficient but possibly the new normal?

Moreover, we would potentially need to change our current neighborhood routing structure to a corridor/circular bussing logical scheme. What if your district moves to transport only special needs students and extending busing to high-risk students, homeless, foster care and academically challenged students? This model could better support districts, driver shortages and budget restrictions in our post-COVID-19 world.

Have your brains exploded yet?

I know that we are going to get through this together.

With temperatures warming and summer within our sight, I hope you have an opportunity to spend some time outside — it is great for bolstering physical and mental health. Please take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Greg Jackson, director of transportation and fleet services at Jefferson County Schools, poses with a Blue Bird school bus. (Photo by Taylor Hannon.)

Greg Jackson is the executive director of transportation and fleet services for Jeffco Public Schools near Denver. He also was named 2019 Transportation Director of the Year by School Transportation News.

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