Easing Commutes, Transporting Your Children to School
July 21, 2017 – Families have more commutes than ever before, managing drives between work, school and community activities. West Ada School District wants to remind families the ease of using school buses in getting children to and from school, saving time and energy you may spend with your loved ones in other ways.
“The average ride time for a child, from bus stop to school, averages around 18 minutes for the district,” Transportation Liaison Miranda Carson explained. “Our average walk from home to the bus stop is 0.4 miles for elementary and 0.8 miles for secondary students, which is a huge improvement from the state’s average of 1.5 miles.”
Approximately 30 percent of students enrolled in West Ada School District rode the bus last school year. Ridership continues to increase. In the 2016-2017 school year there was a three percent uptick in ridership with a comparable increase expected this year too.
“As more homes are built, and more students join the West Ada School District, our student transportation program will meet the needs of our families. We will be more efficient, with more riders on the buses in those outlying areas. We will be more efficient, with more schools and more routes. We will continually be looking for ways to keep our students secure while on our buses, and deliver them safely to our schools and their homes,” Chief Financial Officer Debbie Arstein shared. “With 54 schools and 38,000-plus students, growth is something we know.”
According to Carson, as more students ride the bus, the pickup and drop off lanes at schools become safer. “Our average bus load is 24 students. There are siblings on the bus, and some buses have more or less students riding, but roughly that means there are 24 fewer parent cars at each school in the morning and afternoon.”
West Ada School District, in conjunction with Cascade Transportation, delivers more students to and from school by bus than any other district in the state. More miles are driven by West Ada School District too, since the district encompasses more than 386 square miles – “that’s not a small thing,” boasted Arstein.
For fiscal year 2018, transportation represents 5.5 percent of the district’s general fund budget, or more than $11.8 million. “Safety is our priority, always, but our patrons should also expect fiscal management,” Arstein said. “By closely monitoring and controlling the costs associated with our transportation program, we are then able to support other programs in our district, all directed to our goal of student success.”
Three years ago, West Ada School District leadership made the decision to contract with Cascade Transportation and stop internal transportation services. Arstein explained, “By outsourcing our student transportation program, we have benefited from their expertise in routing, recruitment of drivers, fleet acquisition and fleet maintenance. As our student rider numbers begin to climb again, we will continue to see financial savings to the district.”
Bus drivers employed by Cascade Transportation must hold appropriate driver and bus licensing, and receive training in student behavior management, safety and security procedures, and emergency medical procedures. Prior to offering employment, Cascade Transportation requires applicants pass a federal background check with fingerprint screening, and pass a drug and alcohol test. Frequent drug and alcohol tests, as well as driving record checks, are examined once Cascade Transportation employs those bus drivers.
“Our drivers begin practicing our routes and times as soon as they are set, which is usually a few weeks before our modified students start school,” Carson said. “The practice makes our drivers more comfortable navigating any roadwork and it gives us time to process necessary time changes.”
Parents and children can practice these new morning and afternoon transportation routines by walking to and from bus stops once the routes are posted online. The transportation webpages answer frequently asked questions and offer information on district policy.
“Parents should make sure their children are at the bus stop at least five minutes before the scheduled time so they do not miss their bus. There is about a five minute window where our buses may be early or late, which is largely dependent upon traffic in the area,” Carson shared. “For those families getting acquainted with riding the school bus, helping your child memorize their bus number, stop times and bus stops is important.”
Transportation services are available to students who live within their school’s attendance boundary, and outside the 1.5-mile walk zone radius around each assigned school.
District policy 702.10 defines transportation operation.
District policy 702.57 defines transportation discipline.