Koreen Severance started at Frisco Independent School District in Texas in 1997, when the district had 12 school buses, one of which transported students with special needs. Now, 25 years later the district boasts around 400 school buses, transporting approximately 13,200 students on routes each day.
Frisco ISD’s transportation operations consist of three stations, or transportation facilities. When Severance started, R.L Barrow, the original station, consisted of one mechanic and a transportation supervisor that were responsible for transporting 220 students.
R.L. Barrow is where Severance, the current assistant director of transportation, manages the special needs transportation operations. Last month just prior to the start of the Transporting Students with Disabilities and Special Needs National Conference, she reflected with School Transportation News how much the district has grown in her over 20-year career at Frisco. STN received an in-person tour of the transportation operations at Frisco ISD.
Severance noted that about 15 transportation professionals have been at Frisco ISD for over 20 years.
“When I first started here, there were three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school,” recalled Severance, who started working in the district food services department before driving a school bus.
Today, she said the district has 75 campuses.
District-wide, transportation is responsible for over 10,000 field trips a year and runs 174 routes each morning and afternoon. Additionally, the department runs approximately 130 midday shuttles each day.
R.L Barrow is outgrowing its current space, which houses four routers, 220 drivers and monitors, and about 120 school buses, all transporting students with special needs. Severance added that as of last month, her facility was short eight drivers and eight monitors, attributing the loss of staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of this fall, Frisco ISD employed about 120 crossing guards. The local police department trains the crossing guards while the district performs the hiring and payroll management. The cost of the program is spilt between the district and the city. Megan Bailey, the district’s crossing guard specialist, oversees placing crossing guards and is preparing for re-zoning this upcoming year.
The West Transportation facility opened in 2008, when Frisco ISD experienced a jump in growth. The location has hosted the roadeo competition held in conjunction with the TSD Conference. Organizers plan to return the event there next year, after nearby Prosper Independent School District hosted last month due to a scheduling conflict.
Rodger Lents, Frisco ISD’s other assistant director of transportation, operates out of the West facility. He has been at the district for about eight years, starting as a special education driver and then working in various roles within the transportation operation.
Jerad Castor, who became the managing director of transportation in May, said it was the culture that brought him from Melissa ISD, where he also served as transportation director.
“Frisco ISD has high expectations, and it’s a growing district with a lot of opportunity,” he said.
Castor added that coming from a smaller district of about 40 buses has posed some challenges.
“I am learning more and more each day through the support of our wonderful transportation staff that we have here,” he added, noting that a lot of the responsibilities at both districts are relatively the same but felt on an increased level at Frisco.
Castor started his career in the classroom and transitioned from being an English teacher to the athletic coordinator at Melissa ISD. In his fifth year at the district, he became the transportation director.
Related: Rosco Receives Federal Exemption for Mirror-less Video Monitoring System
Related: Connected School Bus Pilot Reduces Fuel Consumption, Travel Time
Related: Power of Many, Relationships Shared in TSD Opening Keynote Address
Related: (STN Podcast E138) Gratefulness Sound Off: What the School Bus Industry Has To Be Thankful For
Related: Dallas ISD Transportation Employees Save Children from Flood Waters
He joined Frisco ISD at a time of even more growth. Castor said transportation is in the process of launching Zonar tablets on the buses, which will include GPS capabilities and a parent app. Frisco ISD is also starting to give select groups of students RFID cards, to scan on and off the bus as well for the cafeteria and library.
Castor explained that the first phase of the tablets has been installed. Next, district officials will evaluate the success of the project before continuing with more installations. He noted that Melissa ISD also had tablets on all its buses, and he wanted to bring that technology with him to Frisco.
“The tablets will allow our drivers to view turn-by-turn directions of where they are supposed to go,” he said, adding that the technology will greatly help substitute drivers or new employees that may be new to the area.
Frisco also has video cameras on buses as well as road mitigation safety technology. The cameras allow for wireless and remote downloading. Castor added his staff is looking at adding Wi-Fi capabilities to the buses, which could help video become a more proactive approach to reviewing student and driver safety, as the video footage could be downloaded to the computer much faster.
Castor spoke at the 2022 TSD Conference on advocating for the best standard of care for student riders and how the transportation department works with the campuses and parents to collaborate and come up with an Individual Education Program that meets the needs of the students.