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A Customizable Approach to Special Needs Transportation Routing

Alpine Independent School District in American Fork, Utah, has 81,000 students attending 92 schools. A team of more than 400 drivers covering a total of 1,337 routes a day – including 461 special education runs transporting about 1,500 special needs students – makes it all happen.

Creating each and every route are Raymond Bird and Cynthia Raffensparger, each with a decade of experience in the district. Raffensparger is a GIS specialist who handles special education routes on the east side of the district; Bird, also a GIS specialist, handles special education routes on the west side of the district.

Derek Farnes, the maps and GIS/routing supervisor for the district, said much of the work done for a smooth transportation operation is invisible to the community.

Alpine ISD has maximized its use of Routefinder PLUS for routing students with special needs.

Download the full report. 

“As you talk about all the intricacies of curb approach and trying to meet certain time windows and obviously equipment needs, etc. It’s absolutely more complicated than it seems,” he stated.

“We essentially started using Routefinder Pro two years ago and Viewfinder,” Farnes said. He said when the pandemic forced the school to shut down in-person instruction, it seemed like the right time to level up to Routefinder PLUS.

“We jumped into PLUS and really implemented it before school reopened in the fall,” he said. “I can’t overstate how good our team is and what they do.”

Farnes and his team shared a number of the improvements they saw in Routefinder PLUS to help them with routing students with special needs.

Door-to-Door

“Curb approach is huge for special needs students,” Raffensparger said. “In addition to that, it is important that we have the ability to create door-to-door stops from the map or copy it from another trip so that you get it in the exact same place. Those functions are huge. The variety is really good depending on what we need given the specific needs of those students, whether they’re in a wheelchair or a walk-on or we’ve got a child that likes to run. Having that variety is very helpful and PLUS gives us that.”

Easy Searching

Raffensparger noted a number of tools that are helpful for her, such as being able to pull up the extra grids.

“If I go into my trips, and if I’ve got all the trips from one school open, I can click on just a trip or two and I can find the students for just that trip. I don’t have to sort through all 81,000 kids or even the 2,200 special ed kids we’ve got. I can deal with just those five or six students,” she said.

“That has been very helpful for me. I like being able to use the trip grids, something we didn’t really have before, because I can see where the students live and see where they fit best on a trip,” she added.

Multiple User-Defined Fields

“There is no limit in PLUS,” said Bird, referring to user-defined fields that can be created. “This is very helpful to us. A big one that I use on a day-to-day basis is our special needs placement with one called SPED Placement that includes all the different classifications for our students, whether they be a life skills student, an emotionally disturbed student, mild, moderate … we can pull up more with those than just using disability codes. We created a user-defined field for that. I need to deal with special needs students, I make sure that I have that on my grid. Then instead of filtering through 81,000 students, I’m looking through 1,200.”

Farnes agreed that creating unlimited user-defined fields was crucial and a sign that Transfinder continues to improve its technology as a result of client feedback.

“Just having more options with those fields, Transfinder is listening to clients and putting things in that are going to be beneficial,” Farnes said.

What about such functions as Find Candidates and Find Schedules? Or the ability to create your own customized reports? See the full report on how Alpine ISD has maximized its use of PLUS for routing students with special needs.

May 2021

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