|TSD Conference Recap: Travel Training, Moving Away From the Curb Main Topics|
|Written by Sylvia Arroyo|
|Tuesday, 19 March 2013 00:00|
The TSD Conference held March 8-13 in Frisco, Texas, offered a slew of presentations that targeted various aspects of transporting students with special needs, preschoolers and Head Start children.
As school districts are federally mandated to transport students with special needs when deemed necessary by the IEP team, their transportation departments face the hefty task of balancing their compliance with efficiency and reducing overall operating costs. Then they also are anticipating sequestration-related cutbacks in the near future. This year’s conference addressed today’s challenges and offered options and solutions in areas such as management, routing, training and equipment.
A March 11 general session addressed transportation’s contribution to special education and how to develop a comprehensive travel-training program to successfully transition students with special needs to public transportation at an early age. Additionally, attendees learned how implementing such a program could help reduce overall expenses in the process.
Both transportation and travel training are important services IEP teams should consider planning for a child’s postsecondary transition needs. In implementing a travel training program for students at a young age, it also could help transportation move away from curbside pickups and drop-offs, which may cost extra money, time and manpower. Moving away from curbside pickups and drop-offs can help reduce costs while, at the same time, helping these students transition into regular-ed buses.
Some may believe the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires students with special needs to travel in separate vehicles, isolated from their peers, but that’s not the case. According to Part B regulations, many children with disabilities can receive the same transportation provided to non-disabled children, but it must be consistent with the least restrictive environment (LRE) requirements stated in IDEA.
A March 12 presentation followed up on LRE, curbside transportation and other options to consider as cost-reduction strategies in special needs transportation, which the presenters said does not have to break the bank.
Operational flexibility saves money, said Pete Meslin, transportation director of Newport-Mesa School District in Costa Mesa, Calif., who was one of three presenters and also presented at the travel training general session. He noted that, as one example, school districts could enter into shared service agreements with sister districts when it comes to routing, vehicle maintenance, substitute drivers, and in other operational areas to help save money. Some obvious (changing bell times) and not-so-obvious (reducing multiple service addresses) options were also outlined during the presentation.
John Benish, one of the presenters and president and COO of Cook-Illinois Corp., gave attendees the OK to question certain practices for cost-cutting’s sake. “There’s nothing wrong to question those ideas, such ask, ‘Why have we been buying this type of restraint or fuel,” he said.
While the previous session covered the gray areas of cost cutting, a March 10 presentation discussed other challenging gray areas of special needs transportation under compliance, operations and training when dealing with students and parents. The presenters, Meslin and Cheryl Wolf, special needs transportation consultant and former transportation supervisor at Lafayette (Ind.) School Corp., provided measures to take when best practices clash with each other, when conflicting laws apply to the same situation, and what to do when people, such as parents, don’t follow the rules.
Regardless of the incident, the main thing is to document incidents involving gray areas. “Everybody is documenting. When you get into these battles, document every single thing because six months from now or two years from now, it can cause irreparable harm, but then you can say: No, this is exactly what happened,” said Meslin. He added that transporters could find solutions to many problems if they hired bus drivers who truly care about kids.
In a March 9 presentation, Dr. Mark Deschaine, teacher consultant for students with autism spectrum disorder at Genesee Intermediate School District in Flint, Mich., provided some background information on emotional disabilities and ways student transporters can apply scientific, research-based interventions on the school bus.
He first reviewed IDEA’s eligibility definition of an emotional impairment and explained where a “maladjusted” student might fit within this definition. He then discussed the concept of applying a “school-wide approach” that addresses challenging behaviors in a “collaborative, comprehensive, research-validated and humane way” that can prevent problems before they happen.
He said what doesn’t help the negative emotional status of these students is the fact that educators and other school officials are negatively reinforced for punishment, which might reduce anxiety on the adult’s part, but adds stress and anxiety to the emotionally disturbed student. He offered resources on meeting mechanics that can help take the emotional aspect out of the equation, and mentioned that the U.S. Department of Labor offers grants to help reduce the high school dropout rate. Deschaine said more students with emotional disabilities drop out of school than their disabled and non-disabled peers — 48 percent of students in grades 9 to 12 compared to 30 percent of disabled students and 24 percent of all students.
Also this year, attendees were able to learn more about the yellow school bus itself and how the vehicle applies to their daily job when it comes to using lap/shoulder belts and child safety restraint systems. One presentation emphasized the importance of knowing school bus specifications in relation to a student transporter’s job duties, and a second presentation addressed maintaining effective special needs services with an aging fleet.
Editor's Note: Check out our April issue for more coverage of the 22nd annual TSD Conference.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 11:24|