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we are going to run on A track, here are the schools we are going to run on B track, and figure all of those rout- ing scenarios out.’ I think, yeah, you are going to have to have software to do that.” Somerville added, “And not just software in general,


but depending on the size of your district, you are going to have to have a software that will handle large scale data sets, large scale problems, and be able to have a sand box, if you will.” He noted that in his almost 35 years in transportation, this challenge is unprecedented. The social distancing guidelines dare to defy normal transportation operations that school districts have been used to for many years. Limiting a 77-passenger bus to only 11 students is not sitting well with John Suessman, who up until this month was the director of transpor- tation for North Thurston Public Schools, located near Olympia, Washington. Normally transporting 13,000 general education


students and 900 special education students across 10 different tied bell times schedules throughout the day, Suessman, who retired on June 30, said that following CDC guidelines perfectly would only allow the district to service 13 percent of elementary school capacity. Suessman noted that routing for a new school year


normally takes about four to six weeks. This year, the district is considering having students register for trans- portation services, so staff can get a better idea of how many students they would be expected to transport. He said that while changing bell times and performing


morning and afternoon shifts would automatically re- duce ridership capacity by 50 percent, he still sees many challenges with the alteration, as more than one depart- ment is affected, and transportation would be required to make multiple runs. Suessman noted that by starting school earlier and ending school later to accommodate for two groups of students, more staff is going to have to be readily available. “Not only does it increase funding for the transportation


department and fuel, preventative maintenance and staff- ing, it also impacts all the other departments in the school district,” Suessman explained, adding that custodial staff would need to start earlier and food services would need additional staffing in the morning. However, if school starts earlier and bell times are altered


for multiple trips, he noted that there would need to be staff at the school to monitor the children who arrive first. “And then the same in the afternoon, the teaching staff would have to stay later to supervise those kids,” he said. “So, there is no one resolution that is not going to impact every other department in the school district. There is a lot to consider.” Ted Thien, vice president and general manager of Tyler Technologies, said educators and transportation directors are going to have to decide together what makes sense from a learning and geography standpoint.


26 School Transportation News • JULY 2020


“Only routing software can do that. In recent releases


of Traversa, we’ve rolled out some very exciting fea- tures that were originally designed for planning and finding efficiency but can absolutely work to adjust to COVID-19,” Thien explained. “The auto-route feature in Traversa’s Advanced Routing can create a group of runs automatically, based on parameters like total load and total time. A user can take the current set of runs, reduce the load, and in seconds see how many potential runs are created. This feature looks at the students waiting to be serviced and organizes the most efficient routes possible, adhering to map rules such as unsafe streets, corner restrictions, and more.” Chandra Swaminathan, director of software engineer-


ing for Tyler Technologies, said the software can also take into account social distancing. “Auto-route capabilities in the software can be used to


model social distancing what-if scenarios at bus stops and vehicles,” Swaminathan added. “Routes can be rapidly gen- erated based on new capacity and ride-time constraints.”


Cohort Transportation Meanwhile, David Uecker, director of transportation


for Hutto Independent School District near Austin, Tex- as, said he is taking a different approach to transporting students. His 77-passenger bus with social distancing guidelines, turns into a 13-passenger bus. While he said the district contemplated a hybrid model of education that splits class time between in-person and remote learning, he doesn’t think that would work because of the responsibility it places on parents to stay home with their students for half of the school year. He also said it would be a challenge to transport 3,500


students under a split-day schedule and amid social dis- tancing guidelines. Uecker inferred that his staff would have to make 200 trips a day to get everyone to school. “Routing is an imperfect science. So, we just can’t do


that many trips, unless you are starting kids at five in the morning, [or] starting school at five in the morning and staggering your times all morning long,” Uecker explained.


Does your department have the capacity in terms of current drivers and buses to be able to accommodate bell-time changes?


57% No, neither 24% Yes, we have both drivers and school buses 13% Yes, we have enough school buses 6% Yes, we have enough drivers


(Out of 171 responses to a recent STN reader survey.)


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