Good communication between field trip organizers and the Transportation Department allow for student transportation in the Puyallup School District to flow smoothly.
However, April 23 a lack of communication between organizers and Transportation caused bus shortages district-wide.
According to Assistant Principal Miguel Perez, the shortages were caused by an event called We Day in Seattle.
“It is [an event] to reward students who have been doing a lot of community service for either national or international organizations for a cause,” Perez said. “They put on something there and there are districts from all over the state that will send kids to that on school buses.”
Cathy McDaniel, the Director of Transportation, said that Transportation was not informed of We Day and thus had to scramble for buses.
“[Transportation] did not know anything about the ‘We’ event until the last minute when, I believe, one of the junior high schools called and asked for buses,” McDaniel said. “We were attempting to get buses and the buses were taken by other school districts who had advanced knowledge about the ‘We’ program. They had reserved all of the charter buses… when I say ‘buses’ I am speaking of charter buses… they had reserved all of the charter buses back in September and October because they were aware of the ‘We’ program.”
Because there were no buses available that day, Transportation could not support some of the district’s athletics and field trips in the normal way. As a result, some athletic teams were released earlier than normal to go to their games.
“We exhausted everything from our drivers and there were none available for the charters so the only alternative was to see if the athletes for those games could get dismissed earlier so we could get some of our drivers to take them to their games. So that is what we did,” McDaniel said. “Emerald Ridge had a game at Woodland Park south [April] 23 and we said that we just cannot do it: we have no other resources.”
The best way to prevent these types of problems for Transportation is for trip organizers and sports team coaches to contact Transportation with their plans as soon as possible.
“Requesters for field trips [need] to help us provide better support and availability of resources, meaning buses and drivers, as soon as they know that they have a need for Transportation in their planning efforts,” McDaniel said. “It is very important for them to consider Transportation and if we are a last-minute consideration, change that. You can do all the planning in the world but if you cannot get to the event that you are planning, it does not really matter. My desire is for planners to incorporate their transportation piece into their initial plan instead of secondary plan.”
Additionally, the growth of sports teams from bringing freshmen into high school athletics has created another greater need for buses outside of the incident that occurred April 23.
“The district already does a lot of subcontracting with the charter buses because [of] how many sports teams we have going different places either from the junior high level all the way to the high school level,” Perez said. “We have added the C-teams and the C-team schedules for some sports. So there is an increase of buses being needed just for athletics themselves.”
Sometimes the sports teams use charter buses instead of district buses but it all depends of scheduling within Transportation.
“For any program, not just athletes, it is the timing. Our first and foremost priority is getting students to and from school. So we make sure that that is going to happen,” McDaniel said. “If we have, among our driving pool, drivers that finish delivering to a certain school or have a window of opportunity they will use that driver. So we look among our drivers and their trips to make sure that we have that there are none that can do it. If none of those are available then we go outside to the charter companies.”