As we continue to process our response to our severe driver shortage in our transportation department, we have arrived at a time when we need to develop strong community partnerships to extend a network of care to all of our students. Oxford Languages defines Social Capital as “the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.” Until our district is able to hire, train, and onboard the drivers we need, it is going to be an important thing to utilize the extensive social capital that exists in the Valley. As we have been hearing from our community about the impact our short-term challenges will have on them, I want to provide some answers to some of the questions we have been fielding.
First, transportation is an optional service for school districts. There is no law that requires school districts to provide transportation. This is shocking for many folks as we have all come to expect transportation as a given. Despite the fact that it is not required, given our large district, we know it is so important for our families to have this as a reliable part of the day. It is our goal to provide transportation for all of our students to the extent that our workforce allows.
Second, our house-based routes will need to stop on January 3rd to be replaced with community stops until we get enough drivers to reestablish the “normal” process everyone has been used to. People need to know that we do have people in training currently, but the onboard process to be properly certified is a 6-8 week timeline under the best circumstances. Relief is on the horizon, but we all need to adjust in the short term. If we can get an additional certified driver, we will be able to add in-town and daycare stops into our Community Stops, but until we find that person or get them finished with their training, we will be reliant upon our community stops for pick-up in the am and drop off in the pm.
Next, as we process the needs of our families in the questionnaire that was sent out the past week, we will make transfers available as possible. Some additions we have been able to add are: A High School to Maplewood run in the afternoon and a Maplewood to Fuller transfer bus in both the morning and the afternoon.
Finally, the Ride share information is something we are going to disseminate to help our families access the names and numbers of other families who are willing to participate in sharing rides between families to get kids either to or from the Community Stops. We will share the contact information of people who are willing to participate in this with one another. Over the break, there will be time for the families to meet each other and discuss schedules, work requirements, and car capacities to know if people can help each other out. It is our hope that people can meet one another, have meals together, have holiday parties together and get to know one another. In my experience as a Mom, the families I shared rides with for our kid’s transportation needs to sports, school activities, and other events truly became some of my best friends. This crisis is an opportunity for people to reach out to one another and develop a support network. We all want healthy and happy kids and our parents may help to provide that safety net. Our kids need the community to pull together until we can meet the high bar of well-trained drivers. We are making excellent progress in our hiring process which we are really grateful to report, but there are going to be some challenges along this timeline.
We will reconvene the already established Community Advisory Group in January to examine our progress and our next best options as we continue to work to resolve this challenge. In the meantime, please consult the Transportation Button on our mvs.k12.mi.us website frequently as we will keep adding information as more details are worked out.
It is a time of opportunity in the Valley to develop a great support system. Please consider extending yourself to your neighbor and creating new friendships. This is a great community, let’s build our social capital together.
Dr. Katherine Bertolini