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Training for Safe Transport of Special Needs Students During COVID-19

Transporting students in wheelchairs is even more complicated than normal during COVID-19. Securement provider Q’Straint/Sure-Lok presented some potential solutions during TSD Virtual.

In a Tuesday morning presentation, Darren Reaume, the company’s national training manager, surmised that wheelchair securement is a high-risk COVID-19 activity because it requires close contact with at-risk students in small, poorly ventilated spaces. Plus, there are hundreds of different wheelchairs and almost none are designed to be transported aboard a school bus.

He explained that much of drivers’ and aides’ time is spent figuring out safe securement points. The first step to fixing this, he said, is to determine and mark the best securement points and routing path for the belts on each student’s wheelchair, so that these are clear no matter who is driving the school bus that day.

Driver consistency as well as getting buy-in and support from the students and their families, are both helpful in reducing the amount of time the driver and student spend in close contact, he explained. Reaume advised enlisting parents to help so more preparation can be done outside, before the student is brought on the bus.

“Limiting talking during securement is a great idea that just makes sense, but will take some conscious effort,” noted Heather Handschin, supervisor of bus operations for Prince William Public Schools in Virginia, during the session chat.

By placing one wheelchair in a space that could have fit two, staff can leave space for social distancing. Pulling out extra webbing on seatbelts and securement belts allows staff to stay out of students’ personal space while securing them, Reaume added.

Better equipment equals faster securement, Reaume said. Q’Straint offers automatic retractors that can help in this regard.

“The automatic retractors are a life saver,” commented Jessica Smith, who serves as transportation secretary and router for Shelbyville Central Schools in Indiana, during the session chat.

Reaume advised that school staff recommend WC-19 compliant wheelchairs with integrated lap belts to families in the interests of improved safety.


Related: TSD Virtual Demonstrates Proper Securement of Five-Point Child Safety Restraint Systems
Related: Webinar Takes Attendees on a Journey to Safer Wheelchair Transportation
Related: Webinar: Transportation Should Support Students with Special Needs at School Restart
Related: Rethinking School Startup for Students with Special Needs


Lastly, training is imperative.

In the Q’Straint/Sure-Lok product showcase on Monday, Reaume explained that new wheelchairs, a lack of staff training and COVID-19 combine to create a dangerous situation for special needs students and those who transport them.

In the absence of live or hands-on training, the company has introduced the Q’Straint/Sure-Lok Training Aqademy. It includes a wide variety of training, some of which is free. Others come with certifications.

“The free training really helped our transportation department this last April,” chatted Safety and Training Specialist Margaret Snider from Arizona’s Dysart Unified School District No. 89.

Heather Handschin replied that she sent her staff through the Aqademy earlier this year, adding that she shared it with the special needs department, who also appreciated it.

“When you need training, you need it immediately,” Reaume said. Thus, the Aqademy is available on-demand and saves users’ progress as they work through courses.

“Our training options cover all equipment that you could have in your vehicles,” Reaume added.

Michelle Molina, who specializes in driver training and safety for Littleton Public Schools in Colorado, commented during the chat that the classes were easy to follow and gave great information that helped her improve the training of her drivers and paraprofessionals.

TrisAnn Ratko-Robison, a manager at California-based contractor Safetrans Transportation, also used the chat to express her appreciation for Q’Straint’s engaging, upbeat training videos.

Q’Straint’s annual conference, the 2020 National Training Seminar, also has an online option this year due to COVID-19.

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