The cancellation of the regularly scheduled National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) last year and the subsequent decision not to convene again this month doesn’t mean its 12 writing committees have stopped their work.
The NCST’s 17th deliberations on industry specifications and procedures, which was postponed last year amid the COVID-19 outbreak and rescheduled for Des Moines, Iowa, this month was pushed back to 2025. The organization’s steering committee determined in February that continuing travel restrictions and public health mandates at the time precluded the event from convening. Committee members also concluded at the time that a virtual event was not feasible.
Patrick McManamon, NCST chair and the president of the presiding organization National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, said committee members are currently focused on making editorial updates to specifications and procedures that have been submitted by states and individuals. An amended document likely to be completed by July 1.
McManamon added he is not troubled that the pandemic ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the 17th NCST gathering because there remains plenty for committee members to accomplish.
“It’s a time to do two things. The first is to take a look at the changes and also take in other substantial changes that need to be done so that in 2025 we have a comprehensive update that will last another five years after that,” he explained. “But at the same time, it will allow us to [make] some minor edits that can be fixed. For instance, it could be changing a word here or there, not specifically changing the meaning of whatever the section is but putting a word in to make it more understandable.”
While none of the committees have received any urgent requests to update a specification or procedure, he noted that a process is in place if an individual or state delegation believes something requires immediate attention.
“They can submit a request and have it looked at right away during the interim process. At that point, we’ll get a chance to look at it, to decide whether to wait until 2025 or that it needs to have immediate action,” added McManamon, who is also a highway safety specialist with the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles. “If it needs to be addressed immediately, the writing committee that is responsible for that section would take a look at it and make the recommendations and it would get submitted to the steering committee … to be placed in the document.”
State delegations will vote on those proposed changes as well as previously received proposals when the next NCST convenes in Des Moines in May 2025.
“The changes we are talking about right now, will not change the meaning of the document. It could be a spelling error, or a different word needs to be used or it could be punctuation,” McManamon continued. “That, again, it does not change the meaning, but it makes it more understandable. So, again, it’s nothing that’s really substantial.
He said that the committees is expected to reopen the new proposal submission period by the beginning of 2023. This should allow the writing committees adequate time for review, formalizing the recommendations, and disseminating them to the state delegations for comments.
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The NCST consists of 12 committees: Emerging Technologies in School Transportation; General Operations; School Transportation Security and Emergency Preparedness; Activity Bus Operations Other than Home to School/Head Start; School Bus Specifications; Specially Equipped School Bus Specifications; School Bus Inspection; Transportation for Infants, Toddlers and Preschool Children; Students with Disabilities and Special Health Care Needs; Alternative Fuels; Terms and Definitions; and Editing. McManamon believes the scope of those committees continues to serve the organization well.
“I think everything right now is covered with the writing committees we have,” McManamon said. “The newer technology that we’re seeing coming about, I think can be done by the technology committee. Anything else that might arise will be taken up by one of the other committees. I don’t think we have a need for any new committees to be formed and I think the people we have on the committees are subject matter experts in what they’re dealing with.
“If something comes up that they are not familiar with, we will actually go out and try to recruit somebody that is familiar with that technology or is a subject matter expert in that field. They generally will be rolled into one of the standing committees that we have now,” he concluded.