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THOUGHT LEADER


distance, and few students to route on school buses. This challenge becomes more complex with middle schools and even greater with high schools. In major urban areas with hundreds of schools, thousands of school buses and hundreds of thousands of students, the time needed to perform such routing manually could be enormous (depending on how schools with various districts are configured). So, a greater reliance on computers in large urban area may be necessary, particularly as we have grown accustomed to not performing such tasks man- ually at all. But as both a cost and system design reality, we cannot afford to continue to ignore the relationships between school locations, student locations, and stor- age yard locations. Robots cannot design transportation systems and eliminate the waste that failing to design them yields. Conceding these tasks solely to robots is a formula for failure. Regarding the constraint of fleet size, a school bus fleet can be meaningfully supplemented by the inclusion of taxicabs (with Plexiglas shields) and motorcoaches (most of which contain restrooms, among a consider- able number of other amenities). And with an attendant on board each motorcoach (like every school bus), the lack of crossing devices will be irrelevant, as the atten- dants could escort the students across the roadway. (Taxis should provide only exclusive-ride, curb-to-curb service—involving no crossing.) Since 2001, every mo- torcoach manufactured contains a wheelchair lift and two securement positions. Particularly given the num- ber of students who are homeless, and those residing in communities without running water, we cannot find enough motorcoaches. But deployed sensibly, most of the 33,000 available (all do not contain restrooms) are an invaluable resource. So, too, are tens of thousands of taxis. One finds one or both in every service area. In contrast, I would be cautious in using Uber, Lyft or other “transportation network companies.” These unman- aged, superficially monitored formats using untrained “gig workers” driving during those hours they please have already decimated three other public transportation sectors (taxicab, limousine and fixed route transit), and are beginning to damage the motorcoach, paratransit and NEMT sectors. They are lurching to jump into special needs transportation. Unless this mode can operate ac- cording to the same safety standards as more traditional public transportation modes, they should not be included in any service area’s solution to the challenge of providing pupil transportation in the COVID-19 era. Finally, and noting the risks of driver fatigue, the


notion of doubling the number of school bus drivers after three decades of driver shortages should not be an issue in a nation already experiencing tens of millions


52 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2020


of unemployed workers. Plus, all these drivers will (for a change) enjoy full-time employment on a straight shift (not part-time employment on a split shift). We have ample time to recruit, hire and train a new workforce of skilled, responsible school bus drivers before the large-scale resumption of physical school begins. An attendant on board every school bus should also help these new drivers operate more safely, particularly by performing passenger management. Further, training many attendants to also drive would also eliminate the compromises which often occur when substitute drivers are needed.


The Roles and Rigors of Educators Beyond the exhaustive role of high school teachers in this model from the expansion of their hours (to provide two full sessions of school every day to allow transportation providers to optimize their use of tiers), their educational roles must also expand considerably. Beyond educating students, teachers will now have to also educate their parents and the citizenry at large. They must teach parents about their children’s diets, smoking, vaping, sleep, opioids and even alcohol (which deterio- rates the quality of sleep). Most importantly, they must join the spectrum of existing advocates to prevent those less-committed to the success of this challenge from ruining it by infecting the students during non-school hours during their participation in non-school-related activities. And our teachers must do a better job of this than the parade of news and talk show guests, experts as they may be. Engaging in face-to-face discussions and confrontations at the local level, our nation’s teachers will hopefully be more effective. For this model to work, they will have to. At least during the COVID-19 era, our teachers will also have to teach the “big kids.” Another quirk of this two-session-a-day model is that


while the hours of high school teachers will increase considerably, middle and elementary school teachers will effectively be forced to work “split shifts”—even if the total span of these shifts is not excessive (as it would not be for elementary school teachers). If the use of tiers is opti- mized, this reality will create hardship and inconvenience for middle school and high school teachers as well.


Costs, Benefits, Savings and Pay-Back Adding an estimated 3.2 million teacher’s aides, another 500,000 drivers, and 1 million attendants/bus monitors to the mix will create roughly 4.7 million new jobs—not to mention retaining the jobs of the existing 3.2 million teachers and reinstating roughly 500,000 drivers to their jobs (jobs that disappeared when Zoom school began). Adding additional cafeteria workers,


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