Bus Transportation Update

Posted on 06/10/2019
Students loading FHSD Bus

Over the summer, the District will be continuing its work of bringing bus transportation in-house for the 2019-20 school year. FHSD employees from several departments are collaborating with the new
transportation department and working to get everything in place for the switch on July 8. This transition date will mean the last two weeks of summer school transportation will actually be provided using Francis Howell’s new buses. This will also give the District the opportunity to get the new fleet into service before the start of the regular school year on August 8.

“The District has determined that it is possible to provide better customer service and improve the average age of the bus fleet by not contracting out transportation services as it has in the past,” said Transportation Director Jen Simpson. “Over time, we believe we can accomplish this for the same cost, or possibly even less, than the cost of contracting with a third-party vendor. All three bus company bids that we received to provide transportation services for the District were for at least $10.5 million annually.”

FHSD is in the process of hiring approximately 240 transportation employees, including bus drivers, monitors, routers, and dispatchers. Other school districts that have brought transportation in-house have generally experienced higher levels of customer service because all of the transportation staff are employees of the District and not a contractor.

The District is currently taking delivery of the new fleet, using a lease-purchase option to acquire 170 brand-new buses. There will be an additional 21 used buses as part of the fleet, but they will all be 2015 models or newer. The new route system will eliminate the “bus slot” numbering, and each bus will have a unique number that corresponds to the route and is clearly displayed on the bus.

The new FHSD bus fleet will have many new features and safety upgrades, including a new digital radio system (and more dispatchers) to improve communication. Every bus will have a minimum of three cameras for increased safety and security, and 50 buses will be equipped with stop-arm cameras to capture images of any vehicle that passes a stopped bus. The majority of the fleet is now fueled by gas instead of diesel, meaning the fleet is quieter, more fuel efficient, cheaper to operate, and much easier to start in cold weather.

New routing software will assign pick up/drop off locations for students that comply with the state guidelines. This includes ensuring that bus stops that are at least 500 ft. apart, the minimum recommended distance to activate warning lights.

Parents and guardians should be sure that they are signed up for the Infinite Campus Parent Portal. A transportation tab has been added to the Portal that will include a student’s assigned bus route number and pickup and drop-off time and location. That tab will also be updated automatically with any changes to student bus information.

As you can imagine, a change of this magnitude is a huge logistical challenge. Every effort is being made to ensure the transition is as easy and seamless as possible, but know that some issues and problems may occur. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we implement the new transportation systems and work to provide better bus service for our students.

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