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so our set up hasn’t changed. It’s that the interest has piqued,” observed Patrick Willi, product director for School Training Solutions. “Existing customers are seeing if we can meet their eight-hour in-service re- quirements. … [W]e don’t have two districts that come to us with the same needs.” The company offers a 15-hour school bus driver in-

service, but Willi explained that the majority of customers are requesting specific classes that when added together account for eight to 12 hours of training. The company’s online courses are interactive, guided and narrated but they do not include video, he added. They cover special needs, general driving safety and refresher training. At the end of each chapter, students take quizzes to gauge their knowledge and recall what they learned. Supervisors can retrieve reports to track which employees have completed the training. Meanwhile, School Bus Safety

boasts 450 drivers. But it also has the complexity of uti- lizing over 60 different school bus contractors to provide services. Ryan Dillingham, Knox County’s director of transportation, explained that the largest contractor oper- ates 30 routes, less than 10 percent of the overall total. He added that a third of his contractors only own one bus and operate one route. That makes it difficult to organize and schedule training,

Company has also taken its full suite of videos online. Founder Jeff Cassell said his company partnered with Vector Solu- tions, which offers 320 training programs to 7,000 districts nationwide, to stream the vid- eos. He said that 70 percent of SBSC’s customers are now uti- lizing the online safety videos as opposed to DVDs. One of those customers is the Georgia Asso- ciation for Pupil Transportation, which is also a Vector Solutions customer. “I like web-based, but it’s best if you still use it with a teacher,” Cassell advised. “I still don’t know any web- based program that changes the behavior of a human be- ing. It provides knowledge you have to seek out.” As for the school districts that have yet to utilize online training, reasons could be that they have smaller staffs that are still more easily trained in person with social distancing in place. Another reason could simply be how the district operates. Take for example Knox County Schools in Tennessee. The large district covers over 520 square miles and

30 School Transportation News • AUGUST 2020

of transportation operations are utilizing remote learning to train drivers and staff.

40% of respondents 60%

are experiencing delays in keeping staff certified due to closures from

COVID-19 and social

distancing guidelines. (Out of 294

reader responses.)

(Out of 346 responses to a recent STN reader survey.)

regardless of if it being offered online or in person, espe- cially when priority for physical training space is given to the district’s 8,000 regular employees. Up until recently, the contractors were responsible for self-training, but Dillingham said a fatal crash in December 2014 as well as the new en- try-level driver training rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reversed that direction. In January, Dillingham, who is in his second year as director but has worked in the district’s transportation department for 15 tyears, received approval to hire two full-time driver trainers to conduct classes. Those were just developed this spring, with the first class graduating in June. “The first reason we aren’t

doing distance learning is [because] it’s brand new,” he shared. “The second is, I firmly believe in-person training is superior to online training in a lot of ways. Not [in] all ways, and especially in times like this, there will be times when [in-person] is not practical. But when it is, most people are going to get more out of it by being in person.” He said physical training has been manageable so far by keeping class sizes small (one

instructor for every five students) and utilizing larger meeting spaces to maintain social distancing. Then there are the older ages of his driver group to contend with. “We do experience, when we try to move too far into a new technology too quickly, that there is a lot of lag and loss there,” he observed. “I have drivers that I don’t know if they’d be able to figure out how to join a Zoom meet- ing much less participate in one.”

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