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A driver for alternative transportation company Spectra Drive picks up a student for a California school district.


to send one whole big bus for just one student.” Having worked with two previous vendors prior to


Spectra Drive, Shannon said he has learned a few lessons the hard way, including the importance of choosing a company with local support. For instance, make sure the procedure the company uses for dispatch meets the needs of the district and the parents it serves. “So, when a parent calls us and they want to know


where their student is because they’re late, you call the dispatch center. Then the dispatch center has to call the third-party vendor, and the third-party vendor has to call them,” Shannon relayed. “[Sometimes] it’s a 20- to 40-minute wait before we can give the parents an answer. And of course by that time, they are very disturbed by the fact that nobody can tell them where their child is.” The proliferation of tracking apps now used by alter-


nate providers is providing a solution to this challenge. Secondly, Shannon said he had to scrutinize each


company’s system for vetting drivers. “I think a red flag would be if they’re not already


screening drivers and fingerprinting their drivers. I think if they’re not doing that, then it’s not a good fit for school transportation,” Shannon concluded. Regardless of what nonyellow bus service a district


considers using to transport students, directors need to retain control by ensuring the contractor complies with all applicable state and local regulations. Contractors


should have compliant vehicles, trained and vetted driv- ers, and up-to-date insurance. “Districts should dive in and make sure that they


understand the processes of the different companies,” commented Megan Carey, chief visionary officer for ALC Schools. “Do they have a support team? Do they have a lo- cal support team? I can tell you we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without a huge support team on the ground.” ALC, which was founded in California, employs 200


people nationwide. ALC currently services 18 states, cov- ering 400 districts and transporting more than 10,000 students daily. But Carey said the company focuses on the one student, and builds each route very carefully, meeting with directors, parents and drivers. “In any given state that we are working in, it’s ex-


tremely important there’s a huge human connection. For me, I don’t understand how companies are not meeting people in person,” Carey commented. “There’s a lot of sitting down and talking before we ever start transporta- tion for any district.” Carey said introducing students to drivers ahead of


time allows them to ask questions, such as which side of the vehicle the student prefers to ride on. That introduc- tion and verification process also ensures the vehicle has the right equipment. “Sometimes districts send us information that says


Johnny or Suzie isn’t in a wheelchair. And you call up their parents, and they’re like, nope, they need a wheel-


www.stnonline.com 47


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