The wheels on the bus go round and round, all over the 720 square miles of the Truckee Tahoe Unified School District.
With a fleet of 35 buses and a ridership of 2,927 students, which is 80 percent of the school district population, the TTUSD Transportation Department makes sure that these children arrive to school safely, every day of the
The transportation department, which has implemented a multitude of programs that have led to its success, is a shining star of a school district that has seen its share of challenges.
Currently, all busses are equipped with the ZPass Program, which uses Radio Frequency Identification Services. Each student scans his or her bus pass when loading and leaving the bus. The system keeps track of the students’ whereabouts in real time, and authorized employees have access and can see the location of all the students. According to Nanette Rondeau, TTUSD director of transportation, this comes in handy when a student doesn’t arrive home at an expected time. The parent can call the transportation department and find out where the student got off the bus.
Incoming kinders are a big challenge, as most have never ridden on a bus and are afraid. That’s one reason why the district offers one day every year when the buses go to the local preschools and give the incoming kindergarteners a ride to the school they will be attending in the fall; parents can ride along for extra support. This is where kids get their first experience while learning bus safety. If any preschoolers miss that day, they are invited to stop by the transportation office and get a tour of a bus.
The elementary school buses also have fourth and fifth graders who volunteer to be safety ambassadors. Their duty is to model appropriate and safe behavior for the younger bus riders.
Although state law requires that any bus made after 2004 has to be equipped with seatbelts, only two of the district’s buses have seatbelts. These are reserved for the Donner Trail Elementary and Truckee to Kings Beach routes, which include travel on highways. Students must wear seatbelts if a bus has them.
The goal of the district is to have every bus contain seatbelts as soon as the budget permits.
Special Needs Students
The district also has a system in place for students with special needs. If required, a smaller bus can pull into the student’s driveway for pick-up and drop-off. According to Rondeau, most of the time the district tries to get the special needs students on the larger bus with the general ed students, since both groups of students can model appropriate behavior for each other. The district also stresses not isolating special needs students.
The bus drivers in charge of this precious cargo are highly trained. The drivers endure a vigorous three-month training process, including an on-the-road driving test with a CHP officer every five years. Random drug testing is performed quarterly or if there are any reasonable suspicions.
“We are not looking for warm bodies,” Rondeau said. “Fortunately, we pay a competitive wage which gets us a quality staff. You really have to like your job. It’s about managing students safely, then comes the driving [safely].”
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