For Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, providing transportation to all students isn't a simple task. With a student population of more than 12,500, having an in-house transportation program helps the district oversee operations and ensure safe travel. These measures start from day one during a driver's training and continue on through daily routines.
Safety, the ability to hire qualified drivers and overseeing training of each driver are some of the few benefits to having a transportation fleet that is entirely run by the district. Many school districts contract their transportation system, which has the ability to leave schools with a slight disconnect.
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"One of the benefits to having an in-house transportation system is the responsiveness, the ability to build relationships between the district, drivers, and students, and connecting with the community," said Raymond Gawron, director of Transportation and Driver Education.
On an average day, 9,751 students are transported to and from school. There are 165 transportation employees who all work to safely transport students, and District 211 hires and trains each of its drivers. Although the state requires a minimum amount of hours for Commercial Driver's Licenses, District 211's requirements go above and beyond state requirements. Drivers are subject to random drug testing, and if there ever is an incident or accident, the school has the right to investigate.
Each driver is required to do daily checks on their equipment before and after they drive their route. After each route, shift and day, drivers are required to shut off the vehicle and walk to the rear of the bus to check for remaining passengers and lost belongings. If a vehicle is found to have a problem prior to a route, that vehicle is taken out of commission and brought to the bus garage on the Palatine High School campus, where District 211's own mechanics can service it.
During the 2011-12 academic year, District 211's transportation fleet used 165 yellow busses and 38 vans to travel more than 1,583,769 miles. With in-house certified mechanics, if something is wrong, it can be fixed quickly.
Gawron said that although District 211 isn't the only school district that manages its own fleet, it's starting to become rare. It's a goal to continue having an in-house system "to transport our students to and from school in a safe and efficient manner," he said.