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West Virginia Education Department Receives Commendations in Transportation Study

February 05, 1999

The West Virginia Department of Education was commended for its effective statewide school bus operators training manual and Kanawha County Schools was lauded for its efficiency in school bus transportation in a report released last month by MGT of America.  

MGT conducted a comprehensive study of pupil transportation in West Virginia to comply with House Bill 4306 enacted during the 73rd West Virginia Legislative Session. The study was conducted from September to December 1998 and included on-site visits to 16 West Virginia counties.  

In addition to the training manual, the Department's Office of School Transportation and Facilities was commended for its effective bus accident reporting procedure, the statewide drug and alcohol testing program, a low number of school bus accidents and for managing to retain school bus personnel beyond national norms.  

"Over the years, West Virginia has been recognized as having one of the safest school bus transportation systems in the nation," said State Superintendent Dr. Henry Marockie. "We are pleased that this study has validated so many of our successful practices that are modeled nationwide."  

MGT also made several recommendations in the report on ways to reduce transportation costs and to improve efficiency and effectiveness.  

Highlights of their recommendations included:

  • changing the bus replacement cycle from 10 to 12 years
  • eliminating extra duty pay
  • establish aggressive regional purchasing
  • stagger bell times to allow triple runs
  • implement computerized routing and scheduling
 

"While we are encouraged by many of the commendations in this report, the State Board will take a serious look at the findings of this study," said Board President Jim MacCallum. "We want to continue to provide safe, effective transportation for children while working toward employing the most cost-efficient services."  

Several counties were singled out in the study for exemplary practices. Kanawha County, which has the largest school bus transportation in the state, was praised for its scheduling that provides for great flexibility in efficiently using staff resources. The study noted: "Kanawha County has developed a stable workforce of drivers who have the flexibility to respond to continuing and unexpected needs of the district without additional extra-duty salary or overtime costs."  

Kanawha and Pocahontas Counties were lauded for taking proactive steps to reducing absenteeism. Kanawha County was able to achieve a 34% reduction in bus driver/aide absenteeism in one year through an aggressive absenteeism abatement program that rewards employees with perfect attendance.  

Pocahontas County was also recognized for implementing a bus discipline policy that cut the number of discipline reports filed in half during the 97-98 school year.  

The State Board has directed the department to develop an action plan based on the recommendations in the report.  

In 1997-98, almost 2,800 bus drivers in West Virginia drove almost 40 million miles transporting students. Total estimated statewide pupil transportation costs were $130.4 million.

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