Ask a group of student transportation drivers this question: "How many of you drive students with special needs?" You'll see a few hands go up from people who are thinking specifically of their assignment on a vehicle with a wheelchair lift, special restraints, or similar equipment. But then ask the same group, "How many of you drive a student with autism? With peanut allergies? A student who's experiencing homelessness? A student in a difficult custody situation with pickup restrictions?" Eventually almost every hand will be in the air. When you dig into it, most of the students being transported to school every day have a unique need that the district and drivers must be aware of at all times.
With so much data to track and manage, it's vital that student transportation technology act as a support system, providing ways to easily store, access, and use information related to each student.
Not only that, but effective solutions must manage special needs transportation and general education routing within the same system to achieve the highest levels of efficiency. This eases the burden on transportation directors and routers who need to learn only one system, and makes it easier to be inclusive of the many types of needs students can present.
Districts are seeing success with systems where each student's record contains their unique information: Do they require extra time to board the bus? Do they need to be assigned to vehicles with special equipment? Do they need particular seating to help with behavioral issues? Because this information is stored on the student record, these systems make it easy to accommodate every need, no matter which run services the student.
Beyond this, technology that supports districts in providing for student needs must consider each of the following:
Proactive Resource Management
- Transportation software must precisely track the students who require particular equipment or vehicles, and manage availability or potential overload.
Integrated Student Tracking Solutions
- A complete technology solution will be more than just software. On-board hardware should help the driver learn who their students are by including photos, names, grades, and other information. The system must also track who has boarded the bus, and most importantly, who has or hasn't disembarked.
A Comprehensive Map
- Some streets are not safe for larger buses, and a valuable mapping system should be able to restrict buses from traveling down certain streets based on capacity, allowing the home pickup of special needs students. Turning restrictions should also be indicated by the size of the vehicle, and accounted for by the software, not a just a user's diligence.
- The map must be able to extend outside of the district's enrollment boundaries for pick-up of students as required by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
- The system should set universal rules where appropriate. For example, the rule might be set that all special needs students have a curb-to-curb stop, right-side-only stop.
- At the same time, as mentioned above, every student is unique and their record should reflect that. The system should allow information, such as extra loading time, to be input at the student level. This way, no matter which run a student is on, the software will calculate timing appropriately.
When student transportation technology supports districts in providing for student needs, routers, directors, and drivers can more easily, efficiently, and safely transport those students to and from school every day.
Tyler Technologies solutions do all of this and more. To learn more about Versatrans®, Traversa®, and the Tyler Drive™ on-board tablet, visit us at the Transporting Students with Disabilities Conference, or go to tylertech.com/tsd.