FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Safely transporting students—especially those who use mobility devices—remains one of the most unaddressed liability issues in school districts today. The challenges of creating fully-comprehensive safety training programs have never been greater for school districts, as reviewed in a new webinar from Q’STRAINT.
Some School District Challenges include:
- Financial Constraints
- Bus Operator shortages
- High School Bus Operator Turnover
- Outdated Training Material
- Aging School Bus Fleets
- Lack of Inter-Department Communication
In response to these challenges, and to serve as an inspiration and roadmap for student transponders—Laura Beth Blankenship, PT, CPST and Lauren Mayes, CPST of Knox County School District (KCSD)—recently shared their experiences and efforts to improve student safety. Darren Reaume, the webinar presenter, and director of Q’STRAINT training, added his valuable insight to the conversation.
This article contains seven takeaways from the “Journey to Safer Wheelchair Transportation” webinar that every school district needs to know. It also details how KCSD has successfully transformed its school transportation safety program, which now stands as a model district for others.
Attend IEP Meetings
The primary purpose of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting is to define exactly what special education services a child will receive and why. It is normally attended by social workers, psychologists, learning specialists, teachers, therapists, and in some cases, student transponders.
Blankenship, who serves as a pediatric physical therapist at KCSD, believes that more people need to be invited to the IEP meeting table, especially school transportation professionals, to ensure that a child’s special transit needs are incorporated into the overall IEP.
Ask Yourself the Question?
“When you are fielding a transportation safety-related question from let’s say a parent, you should always ask yourself, who else needs to know this answer,” asked Blankenship. “If you don’t ask yourself this question, then all potentially useful information will not be shared with other members of your transportation team.”
Ride the School Bus as a Passenger
“Take a ride on your school bus and watch in a nonjudgmental way the way students are being transported,” Blankenship recommends. “And when you return to the office, you can present both your factual and subjective findings to your team. As a result, all sorts of ideas and issues can come up in the meeting that could eventually be implemented or resolved in your school district.”
Attend National Conferences & Trade Shows
One of the fastest and easiest ways to acquire knowledge that will provide you with the tools to stimulate and impart real change in your school district, is to attend national conferences, webinars and trade shows. At these events, you can find answers to your most pressing questions and learn about the latest industry trends, like at STN Expo Conferences.
When returning from a tradeshow, don’t forget to share your newly acquired knowledge with the whole team. It is also important to send all relevant staff members to conferences and trade shows from time-to-time, as your budget permits. These experiences will ensure that everyone is talking on the same page and accelerate departmental growth.
Take advantage of Safety Manufacturer Training Programs
Many manufacturers hold their very own training programs that provide a wealth of information about their transportation safety equipment. Q’STRAINT, an industry leader in providing wheelchair securement solutions, hosts the National Training Seminar (NTS). This annual seminar, which is geared to school transportation directors and trainers, presents a tremendous opportunity for those who are working in the school transportation safety profession.
“When I attended an NTS, I was able to spend some quality time with my manufacturing representative,” Blankenship recalls. “I was having high-level conversations about our district’s approach with those experts who have experience working with school districts on a national scope.”
Most noteworthy, the NTS provides informative and hands-on training on compelling and extremely useful subjects, like “How to Secure Difficult Wheelchairs.” You can also learn quite a bit about wheelchair securement from other attendees who work in the same profession, to see what they are doing in their home school districts.
Go to These Events with a Purpose
When you attend these conferences and seminars, you really have to go there with a purpose. You won’t learn what you need to know if you stand as a spectator in the back of the conference room. Get yourself involved and never be shy about approaching industry leaders to ask them questions.
Sign up for an Interactive Training Program
Often school districts use antiquated training material to instruct their operators. This is never an issue with Q’STRAINT, which offers a newly-released and highly interactive training portal on its website. The Q’STRAINT Training AQADEMY, which is continuously updated, provides online and on-demand courses, live webinars, onsite training, presentations and national training seminars.
For over 35 years, Q’STRAINT has been the industry leader that is focused on developing the most innovative solutions to advance the safety and effectiveness of wheelchair passenger travel. The diverse global staff serves customers in more than 70 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. For more information, visit www.qstraint.com or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.