This past week I was part of a team that represented Tyler Technologies at the Transporting Students with Disabilities Conference in Frisco, Texas. This show was well attended and we had the opportunity to visit with a great number of the conference participants who had come from all over the United States as well as Canada and Puerto Rico.
Attending shows like this one generally provides us with the chance to learn more about a school district’s transportation operations and needs. While we had a number of conversations with participants, ranging from how fleet maintenance solutions can help districts track preventative maintenance and costs, to how GPS and student tracking solutions can help districts track for Medicaid reimbursement purposes, there seemed to be one common need that was expressed: the need to have a program that would simplify the process of routing for special needs students.
In my conversations it became clear that Transportation Directors prefer solutions that allow special needs routing and General Education routing to take place all within the same program – the same routing tools and concepts for all students – so they have to learn only one method of routing.
But for all of the features that need to be consistent between traditional and special needs routing (i.e. the way the routing works, student files) there are certainly things that set special needs routing apart. There are additional considerations that are handled for special needs students that typically do not apply to general education students.
• Streets that prohibit large buses from traveling on them need to be marked to allow the smaller special needs buses. Thus, the map can keep large buses off certain streets while still allowing the home pickup of special needs students.
• Turning restrictions also need to be indicated by the size of the vehicle.
• They need to track a running tally of the students assigned to particular equipment in a vehicle and therefore track availability or potential overload of that equipment.
• They need to know the type of equipment (wheelchair, car seats, etc.), and how many students can be accommodated on each vehicle, and also the number of minutes to be added to the route time to account for such students. This provides more accurate route times.
• Student stops are typically defined by rule. For example, the rule might be set that all special needs students have a curb-to-curb stop and a right-side stop.
• Having user-defined fields that may be used to record the equipment needs of a student (such as lift-bus or car seat) are helpful.
• They need to allocate for extra time when students are placed on a bus with needed equipment
• Routers need to see the student needs prior to even beginning to create routes.
• Subsets, such as Behavioral Development students might be on the same run, but require separation from the larger special needs population, even when they are being transported to the same school.
• Drivers need information about each special needs student – and photos are particularly helpful at the beginning of the year or for substitute drivers.
I would be interested to learn more from those who route for special needs students. Please respond in the comments with your thoughts on the different software requirements you face when transporting these students.