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California Approves Virtual Training for School Bus Driver Certifications

As school districts grapple with bus driver training needs amid ongoing COVID-19 physical distancing requirements, the California Department of Education’s Office of School Transportation (CDE/OST) issued a memorandum that outlines the new acceptance of remote, online learning to fulfill original and renewal classroom driver training.

In guidance sent to school districts on Monday, CDE/OST said the use of current technology to distribute and access virtual training meets section 40081(c) under Title 2 of the California Education Code for skills and knowledge requirements of school buses and school pupil activity buses, as well as transit buses and farm labor vehicles.

“In order to be responsive to the distance learning requirements so prevalent in today’s society, CDE/OST recognizes that technology has changed dramatically,” the guidance states. “These technologies allow for real-time interaction between instructor(s) and participants during creditable time; therefore, fulfilling the statutory requirement for classroom instruction given by, or in the presence of, a state-certified instructor.”

Virtual training technology can utilize tools such as Zoom and Google Meets software or other related technologies that meet the National Standards for Quality Online Programs.

On a webpage that provides details on creating high-quality online training, CDE states that online programs can be asynchronous, meaning that students and teachers are not necessarily online at the same time, or synchronous, wherein courses operate in real-time and typically require students to attend virtual classes and have live interaction with their peers and instructor during a specific time period.

Original applicants for school bus driver certifications must still successfully complete at least 40 hours of course instruction, including a minimum of 20 hours in the classroom and 20 hours of behind-the-wheel training. Original applicants to drive a school pupil activity bus need five fewer hours of classroom instruction.

School bus driver renewal applicants must successfully complete at least 10 hours of original or renewal classroom instruction, or behind-the-wheel or in-service training, during the 12-month period that a certificate is valid.

Driver training must also continue to be documented on the State Department of Education Training Certificate T-01 and be signed by both the vehicle driver instructor of the appropriate class and the driver applicant.

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