This post is sponsored by EverDriven
A 2022 poll found that one in three US parents are concerned about their children getting to school safely. School districts across the country are tasked with finding ways to provide affordable student transportation to the most vulnerable population, such as students with special needs, students coming from out of district, and students experiencing homelessness or other home insecurity.
This means districts often find themselves seeking alternative and supplemental transportation options that meet the needs of each student.
No one understands this more than Megan Carey, chief development officer at EverDriven, the pioneer company of supplemental and alternative student transportation. Carey is a strong advocate for the safe transportation of all students, especially those with special needs, foster youth, and those experiencing homelessness.
Recently we spoke with her about the benefits of EverDriven:
Question: How have the needs of school transportation changed over time? What do today’s families need that may differ from traditional ways of envisioning school transportation?
Answer: Historically, all students were transported on a yellow bus. It worked because schools started and ended at the same time. Today, there are more options than ever before. Not only are there a plethora of after school activities to choose from, but there’s also school choice. Families need more flexibility and districts need more options for how to get their students safely and efficiently to and from school.
Additionally, we’ve seen a rise in the number of students with disabilities. These kiddos typically have unique needs that also need to be addressed during transportation – not just in the classroom.
Q: How has technology changed the expectations of parents when it comes to school transportation?
A: One answer is visibility. GPS tracking is so prevalent and readily available. This has created an expectation that parents are able to keep their “eyes” on their kids at all times. The peace of mind that this enables is invaluable for parents, particularly if you have a child with disabilities or other transportation requirements. Enabling visibility to parents as to the whereabouts of their kids has become a cost of entry into the alternative transportation industry.
Q: Today’s school districts are often looking for ways to reduce spending. Explain how utilizing EverDriven can significantly reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of a student’s education.
A: Quality, to us, is about the safety of the students. That means that drivers submit to pre-, post-, and random drug screenings, as well as training/education and background checks. It means visibility for parents and district staff into a student’s whereabouts during transport to and from school. The technology enables us to provide first-class service, but it’s really all about the children. Their safety is always top priority.
When it comes to cost savings, our almost two decades of experience shows that when you have fewer than seven students on a bus, that route can be more effectively, and cost efficiently, serviced in a smaller capacity vehicle. We tell our district partners that the larger routes should stay on their buses, but that they should consider smaller vehicles for those smaller groups of kiddos.
Many people don’t think about how a child’s ride to school can have such an impact on their day, and therefore, overall education. When a kiddo gets to school ready to learn, they are much more likely to have a successful day. If they’re being bullied on a bus, have inconsistent transportation to and from school, or overly long bus rides, they’re more likely to arrive anxious and therefore, not in the ideal state of mind for effective learning.
Q: Providing students with the best mode of transportation for their individual needs is just one way to help support academic achievement. Share how EverDriven matches each student with the vehicle that best meets their needs.
A: We have a District Portal available to all our district partners where they can request a trip and provide answers to a variety of questions such as – does the student need to ride alone? Do they need specific equipment? Do they need an aide, monitor, or nurse to ride with them? We then take that information and pair them up with a driver and vehicle that will get them, safely, to and from school. Whatever the circumstance we work to provide the best driver and vehicle for the student’s unique needs.
Once we’ve paired them with a driver and a vehicle, we make a phone call to their parent or guardian. We tell them about the vehicle and driver and what they can expect.
Q: Consistency is important to students and families; it builds trust. Explain how EverDriven cultivates relationships and provides families with stability.
A: Consistency is key for all kiddos, especially young ones, those with special needs, and children experiencing homelessness. We do our best to make sure that each kid has the same driver for as long as possible. In some cases, we’ve been able to have the same driver transport the same student for their entire school career – from kindergarten all the way through graduation.
Q: Student safety is always first and foremost. Elaborate on EverDriven’s commitment to working with trained drivers that are dedicated to the safety of students, day in and day out.
A: Safety is always first. As a mom myself, there is no way I would put any of my daughters in a vehicle with someone I didn’t think I could trust. We look at all these kiddos that same way. Don’t put them in a vehicle with someone you wouldn’t put your own child in a vehicle with.
We require each driver to become SafeRide Certified. That means that they’re participating in a drug consortium, that they submit to local, state, and federal background checks, they complete required training/education courses, provide proof of insurance, and have criminal and sex offender record checks. Our requirements mirror that of a bus driver but really are right-sized to the smaller capacity vehicles. We built the standard in alternative transportation by setting these minimum requirements.
Q: EverDriven provides a level of service found nowhere else. Please elaborate more on EverDriven’s technology, including trip tracker and smart routing and how this helps students and parents feel more at ease.
A: The technology and the team work in tandem. I mentioned previously the District Portal – that’s really where the magic begins. A district submits a transportation request with all the information we need. Our internal team takes that student’s information and feeds it through our proprietary smart routing software, which tells us where to route that student. Our team then verifies the info and notifies the district. Once the District has signed off, the information is then sent to the appropriate Service Provider through our Service Provider Portal. They notify the driver and confirm all their information through that portal, and that information then gets pushed directly back to both the District Portal and the VIP app – that’s our parent app.
Simultaneously, our internal and external operations teams are working together to make sure we have the correct driver and vehicle ready to provide services.
Once everything has been set and scheduled, the information is visible in the District Portal and the VIP app giving district staff and parents complete visibility into their child’s trips.
Editor’s note: Thank you to Megan Carey for her insight. It’s clear that a variety of circumstances means that some students need alternative school transportation options. With over 600 active school district contracts and over 21,000 students last year alone, EverDriven is committed to providing equal opportunities, mobility, and peace of mind as they strive to provide equitable education for all kids. For more information, visit Everdriven.com.