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Jul 31, 2015, 11:18 AM

Building Routes that Work: 5 Tips to Get Students to School on Time

With the start of a new school year on the horizon, you may be reminded of last year’s start-up troubles and are looking for ways to improve for this fall. If your schools struggled with late bus arrivals or if your district experienced other transportation-related difficulties during back-to-school season, your route design may be inefficient and/or there may be an inadequate amount of time built into your routes.

These 5 tips from our First Planning Solutions team will help position your district for success in your upcoming school year by ensuring your students arrive on time and ready to learn. First Planning Solutions is the industry-leading expert in student transportation routing and consulting with over 150 years of collective experience. We have helped hundreds of districts like yours strategically plan and design bus routes that put students on the road to a successful school year.

Tip #1: Think (and Act) Future Forward.

Plan the work, and then work the plan.

Build a project plan for your fall route preparations. Your plan should be organized to include specific tasks, start/end dates and current status.

  1. Start with what you want to have accomplished by the first day of school and work your way backward on the calendar through present-date.
  2. Work with district and/or school administrators to identify dates for key milestones.
  3. Find out:
    • When will your system advance students to the next grade level?
    • When will you have access to updated information regarding students with special needs?
    • When will you need to communicate route information to parents (postcard mailing, local newspapers, etc.?)
    • When will routes be locked in for the new school year?

Sample Route Preparation Plan

Tip #2: Practice Makes Perfect!

If you are making significant changes to your route plan, practice dry runs early.

By the time your drivers select routes, it’s likely your district will have already communicated transportation arrangements to schools and parents; this means you won’t be in a position to make necessary changes after route selection. So if you have major changes to your route plan this year, we recommend that you test the timing and directions of your routes before drivers make their selections.

Have your most experienced drivers (who want summer hours) practice routes as soon as they are built. Devote special attention to new or challenging routes. If you are unable to dry run all routes, take a geographic sample by testing some routes for each school or in each zone of the district. Compare the driver findings to planned routes and fine-tune as needed.

Tip #3: Get the Facts Straight.

Confirm your key school information every year.

Double check important variables such as grades serviced, bell times, and bus arrival and departure times. You should be 100% confident that your routes work from the most current and accurate parameters available.

Tip #4: Make a List — Check it Twice.

Keep a master list of all transportation-eligible students and their status (routed/not routed).

While some routing systems generate and maintain student lists automatically, others require manual set-up.

Tip #5: Execute.

Ensure that you have ample buses and drivers to cover your route plan.

We probably don’t need to tell you this, but it’s worth noting: you can build the most efficient routes in the world - but your system will not work properly without the vehicles and drivers needed to operate them.

We hope these tips will help your district plan and design highly efficient routes for a successful start to your next school year. With a little planning and professional support, your buses will be running like clockwork to deliver your students to school on time and ready to learn on the first day of class and all year long.

Our First Planning Solutions team is here to assist you in systematically putting these tips into practice for your district. We provide consultation services to both First Student contract customers and districts that provide their own transportation service.

Let us put our logistics and planning expertise to work for you!

Contact us for more information.