As discussed in a recent webinar, the three national school transportation associations joined together to create a task force that will research, review and report on matters relating to the coronavirus pandemic and school transportation.
The Student Transportation Aligned for Return to School, or STARTS, Task Force includes collaboration between the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), and the National School Transportation Association (NSTA).
The organizations discussed their joint work in a webinar last month, presented by Transfinder. They concluded that many questions were left unanswered in terms of what school transportation will look like after the coronavirus pandemic and once students are permitted to return to in-person learning.
The STARTS Task Force launched on May 8. The presidents of the three associations — Steve Simmons of NAPT, Mike LaRocco of NASDPTS, and John Benish, Jr., of NSTA — sent letters to their members asking for volunteers and highlighting the proposed work.
The reported objective, according to a press release, is to develop specific recommendations and to encourage transportation professionals to insert themselves into state and local groups that are considering school reopening proposals. The task force will be developing best practices and resources for student transportation professionals.
The STARTS Task Force is led by a steering committee of six members that will make final decisions on policy matters. Three subcommittees will focus on: “Health and Safety of Students and Employees,” “Communications, Advocacy and Public Relations,” and “Scheduling, Routing and School Buses.”
Each subcommittee will research their specific aspects of student transportation response, planning and support for returning to school.
The areas of research include:
- Social distancing and workplace safety at the transportation facility
- Social distancing and use of personal protective equipment, PPE, and other preventive health measures to ensure driver and student safety
- New or expanded bus cleaning and disinfecting protocols
- Regular and special education student management to ensure student and driver safety
- The impact school schedule changes will have on transportation operations and finance including the potential for radical changes to student class scheduling
- School-centric, parent and community-based education and other communications
- Other changes that have the potential to affect school transportation operations
An advisory committee will consist of other national or state agencies, associations, and representatives from the commercial sector. Currently, the task force has asked The School Superintendent’s Association, National School Boards Association, National PTA, the Council of the Great City Schools, National Association of School Nurses, Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governor’s Association to participate.
However, Curt Macysyn, executive director of the NSTA, told School Transportation News that the National School Boards Association declined to participate.
The task force will meet within the next week, and co-chairs and volunteers will be assigned subcommittees and schedules will be decided.
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If you are interested in participating, email an application to STARTS@napt.org.
“The importance of the STARTS Task Force cannot be overstated. Student transportation is the largest transit system in the country, but the system that we left in mid-March will be dramatically different than the one we re-engage with in August and September. The professionals who will dedicate their time and expertise in this endeavor have the knowledge and experience to make sound judgements as we plan a return-to-school. We believe this information that comes from our collaboration will be embraced by policy-makers and the general public,” stated Benish.
Meanwhile, according to a recent School Transportation News survey sent to readers this month, 52 percent of 252 respondents said that their school districts were implementing a coronavirus task force to plan the next school year. At this writing, 83 percent of 128 respondents said transportation will be represented on those task forces.