Though most HISD students are starting school virtually,
Transportation Services was back on the road on Sept. 8, providing student
shuttle service to and from 36 digital learning centers across the district.
Strategically located across the district, digital learning
centers provide students without technology access a place to complete their
daily virtual lessons during the district’s online-only first six weeks of
Students who have been previously identified as needing
technology will be assigned to a select center, based on the location of their
home school. Once assigned, the home school will provide parents with their
student’s bus stop and pick-up and drop-off times.
Six curbside summer meals sites and all Fresh Bus produce delivery stops have been canceled for Thursday, June 4, following a confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus.
The six summer meals sites closed on Thursday include Bastian,
Foster, Shearn, Thompson, and Whidby, and R. P. Harris elementary schools. All
other scheduled summer meals sites will remain open.
The temporary closure will allow for deep cleaning and
sanitization of affected schools and district facilities. Fresh Bus produce
delivery and the curbside summer meals site at R. P. Harris Elementary School are
expected to resume normal operations on Monday, June 8. The remaining five
school sites are expected to reopen Thursday, June 18.
Next week school buses will roll once again, but for a
special reason — they will be delivering fresh produce to students at 68 select
elementary campuses as a part of a new produce delivery program.
Fresh Bus school buses will provide weekly deliveries of
fresh fruits and vegetables to several locations in each school community,
making fresh produce directly available to more than 36,000 students.
The Houston Independent School District is augmenting its cleaning and sanitization efforts as a precautionary measure as officials continue to monitor the potential impact of COVID-19.
HISD has no confirmed cases of COVID-19. However, acting out of an abundance of caution, the district issued a 14-day self-quarantine for several individuals, all of whom recently returned from a country on the CDC travel warning list or are closely related to someone who did.
Impacted schools are being deep cleaned and sanitized as a precautionary measure. This includes fogging all rooms with CDC-recommended disinfectant and cleaning all air ducts, a common practice for potential cases of airborne viruses.
Transportation Services will stop making changes to existing routes at the end of March to allow the department to begin planning for the 2020-2021 school year.
Parents will no longer be able to request changes to existing routes starting Friday, March 27. Students with new transportation requests submitted after the cutoff date will be assigned to existing routes and stops.
“Planning for the next year is an essential part of ensuring we fulfill our mission,” General Manager John Wilcots IV said. “This deadline will allow us to shift our focus to scheduling and route planning for the coming 2020-2021 school year.”
Transportation Services is continuing to work with SafeStop to troubleshoot technical glitches resulting from incorrect application configurations.
For parents viewing open routes in SafeStop, it may have appeared as though the bus was stationary at the bus terminal.
To help address this and other issues, parents are encouraged to make sure they download all SafeStop software updates to ensure they have access to the latest data.
Transportation Services is continuing efforts to recruit new bus drivers, with monthly job fairs scheduled to begin next month.
The district has been working to address a bus driver shortage by adding more drivers to its roster. The job fairs will continue through July.
The Houston Independent School District’s Transportation Services department will spend the new year focusing on recruitment efforts as it works to hire 30 more drivers by March.
The department will begin hosting monthly bus driver job fairs in February 2020 as part of continuing efforts to make sure all routes are fully staffed, and additional drivers are available to provide coverage when employees are absent.
Transportation Services General Manager John Wilcots IV said three job fairs will be held each month — one on a Saturday and two on weekdays. The upcoming job fairs are expected to give the department a head start on staffing for the summer and the 2020-2021 school year.
Transportation Services is conducting a comprehensive review of bus ridership at schools with high transportation eligibility to identify opportunities for route consolidation and increased efficiency.
The review is focused on 15 schools with low ridership, despite having a high volume of students who are eligible for transportation and have been assigned routes.
Transportation Services General Manager John Wilcots IV explained that requests for transportation are often at their highest at the start of the school year. Once a request is made and the student is found to be eligible, the department is required to assign that student to a route and stop — even if they end up choosing not to ride the bus.
As a bus driver for the Houston Independent School District, Ethan Sowell knows his mission focuses on providing students with safe and reliable transportation to and from school.
But for Sowell, his job isn’t just about driving a bus. It’s about making a difference.
“Children can’t do anything about their situation,” Sowell said. “Somebody has to look out for them.”
That’s just what he did earlier this month when he noticed a student on his route had become especially quiet and withdrawn and appeared self-conscious, especially about his clothes.