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included positions as a special education teacher, school principal, transportation director, and transportation train- er with the Alabama State Department of Education. “We kind of tied the wheelchair to the wall of the bus and hoped and prayed a lot.” Staggs also now works as a school bus sales coordi-


nator for the Bus Center in Pelham, Alabama, where she helps districts to build custom buses from the tires up. She stresses the importance of setting realistic expecta- tions about vehicle capacity. “One of the things that gets a little sticky when you’re trying to build a bus for a school district that wants a bus with a lift on it, is the size of the vehicle,” Staggs said. Most buses are rated to carry three students to a bus


seat, which provides a capacity of 72 passengers. At the same time, only 13 inches of seating space is allotted for each child. “That’s why [passenger capacity] usually winds up being anywhere from 48 to 52 kids,” she added. A wheelchair lift typically takes the space of two bench


seats, as does each wheelchair. Additionally, if students are moved from their chair to a bench seat, then trans-


porting one wheelchair requires the space of five to seven typical riders. Therefore, two chairs could reduce passenger capacity by eight to 11 students. Besides physical bus capacity, Staggs said transporta-


tion managers should plan for temporal capacity. Special education routes should be no longer than any other route, even though certain individuals are likely to need more time to board the bus. Whatever loading system and bus a district opts to use,


Shutrump recommended scheduling a test drive with the full team, to ensure the plan on paper still makes sense on the road. “Unless every director has seen the loading process and the challenges involved, as well as putting the shoulder lap belt on the student, and how long that takes and the challenges involved, there could be a tendency to want to load the routes a little bit heavier than what might be safe,” she said. “These kinds of things can get missed. Not because anybody’s uncaring or un- knowledgeable, but just because they don’t do it on a day-to-day basis.” ●


small step.


giant leap.


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32 School Transportation News • MARCH 2020 septième 2110, rue Drummond, 3e étage


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