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PHOTO BY JUAN DELEON/ICON SPORTSWIRE (ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA AP IMAGES)


News


Channelview ISD school buses take Hurricane Harvey flood victims to shelters at a local high school on Aug. 28, 2017.


Student Transporters, Operations Resilient in Eye of Hurricanes


WRITTEN BY RYAN GRAY W


ith weeks remaining in the 2017 Atlantic Hurri- cane Season, student transporters along the Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard remain hopeful that they’ve seen the worst of storms that the


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said already were the strongest since 2010. August and September were especially destructive as Hurricanes


Harvey and Irma hit within days, and Maria waited in the wings. With Harvey holding the distinction of the wettest hurricane to ever make landfall in the continental U.S., the entire Gulf Coast of Texas is still drying out. Meanwhile, over a million residents were displaced, the majority in Houston as well as further south along the coast in the Rockport area, where Harvey made landfall. Te result is many school districts have seen their enrollment


swell as they temporarily take on new students. Te enrollment at Gregory-Portland ISD at the northern tip of Corpus Christi Bay swelled to over 1,700 students (a nearly 38-percent increase in total enrollment) from Aransas Pass ISD, Aransas County ISD, Ingleside ISD and Taft ISD along the Gulf Coast where Harvey struck on Aug. 23. Aransas Pass ISD was not scheduled to reopen until Oct. 16 with Aranas County ISD setting a possible date of Oct. 9. Grego- ry-Portland ISD spokeswoman Crystal Matern said many parents from the area are choosing to drive their children to their tem- porary schools. Other students are attending Sinton ISD, which Charlies Ochoa, director of transportation for Aransas Pass ISD, said is also providing school bus service.


18 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2017


Corpus Christi ISD is the largest school district in the area and used 13 school bus drivers to evacuate 1,000 residents before the storm to shelters located in San Antonio. Director of Transporta- tion Kyle Pelichet said 18 school bus drivers returned a week later to bring the evacuees home after the city’s emergency operations team ensured structures were safe and utilities were restored. “We were only helping out and doing our part in a community


effort to take as many of our residents that were not able to evacu- ate themselves, out of harm’s way and to safety,” Pelichet said. Displaced students requiring bus service also utilized existing ser- vices at CCISD. “No additional transportation was coordinated or scheduled to transport students from surrounding areas,” he added. Meanwhile, Austin ISD delayed school start on Aug. 28 due to heavy rain. Executive Director of Transportation Kris Hafezizadeh said the district also took in about 400 evacuees from Houston and the Gulf Coast, of which only about half remained at this report. Transportation operations also only needed to provide service for six students. Austin ISD spokeswoman Cristina Nguyen said the district prepared to receive a larger number of students, so the smaller num- ber were easily integrated into any of the district’s 130 campuses. Apple Bus also operates school buses in the Austin area. Vice


President Reid Oyster told STN that employees moved all buses off site and onto school property in anticipating of rising water in low-lying areas. But in the end, he added, the company’s opera- tions there and in New Orleans emerged relatively unscathed. Meanwhile, Houston ISD finally started school for 200 of its campuses on Sept. 18, which rolling starts over the next two weeks for


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