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Bus drivers

Driving the district forward

Posted 2/21/24

In the heart of Florence, a pioneering initiative has taken shape at the Florence bus barn that promises to expedite the training of school bus drivers. With safety and proficiency at the forefront, …

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Bus drivers

Driving the district forward

Posted

In the heart of Florence, a pioneering initiative has taken shape at the Florence bus barn that promises to expedite the training of school bus drivers.

With safety and proficiency at the forefront, a recently certified bus driver training course has been crafted to certify and prepare newly hired school bus drivers for the challenges of transporting our most precious cargo — our children. This facility represents a significant investment in ensuring the highest standards of competence and responsibility among school bus drivers, underscoring the commitment to the well-being and security of our community’s youth.

At the forefront of this initiative is Florence Unified School District Director of Transportation Shannon Weber. She answered some key questions about this innovative idea for FUSD and the impact it promises to have on the future of student transportation.

When did you first imagine creating a driver-training facility at the Florence bus barn and how long did it take to make your idea a reality? As long as I have been in leadership in student transportation, having our own testing location in the Florence Unified School District has been on the wish list. The idea was presented to the district’s administrative team for discussion and approval. Once approved the project was started and it took about six months from start to certification. This was largely due to the unwavering efforts of our training supervisor, Tamara Schenewerk, who worked with ADOT partners tirelessly!
What specific features and amenities does the new training facility offer to enhance the learning experience for public school bus drivers?
First, the new training course will allow us to evaluate our trainees for road and student readiness upon completion of the training program. Prior to having our own training facility, FUSD, like many other districts in Valley, request dates with the few testing locations in the area and wait sometimes weeks for a test date. This reduces retention of knowledge and challenges confidence while waiting. The new course will also allow all of our driving staff to practice skills in all bus types with intentional drills and exercises for safest driving practices. Additionally, this new course will help staffing efforts because we no longer have to wait extended periods of time for a drive to become certified.

How will the new training facility accommodate the diverse needs of bus drivers? The new training course will allow drivers to practice in scenarios that they will face on roadways with coaching and guidance from a certified trainer. It also supports practicing various turns, tail swing familiarity and mock situations for confidence building with roadway and intersection situations.

Can you provide insights into the curriculum and training modules that will be offered at the new facility? All ADOT/CDL/AZ DPS curriculum is dictated by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and AZ DPS minimum standards. Curriculum and road/skills components are built on those standards.

How will the training facility utilize technology and simulation tools to simulate real-world scenarios? The beauty of the facility is the use of an actual school bus with all its functions on the course and with the ability to measure specific skills for safe student transportation.

What measures are in place to ensure that the training facility complies with safety regulations and standards? The course and instructors have been evaluated, inspected and certified by ADOT as an authorized and safe facility and business.

How will the training facility address ongoing professional development needs for bus drivers? We will build ongoing professional development based on the needs of the team and observations during route driving to best improve things like loading zone safety, turning radius, offset backing and others.

How will the effectiveness of the training programs offered at the facility be assessed and evaluated? ADOT will conduct annual observations as well as more frequent observations of the course measurements and surface conditions. We are also required to submit the test results of our trainees on their road and course tests to their database with appropriate scores for safe driving.

How will FUSD benefit from the new training facility? Florence Unified will be able to certify our trainees upon completion of their training versus waiting for an appointment with an outside agency. This allows transition while the driver’s skills are at their sharpest compared to bus driving. Having a certified course, Florence Unified can then offer to test drivers for other districts since the schedule allows for examiner fees/hourly.

Rita Ann Ezzai Reznick is the director of public relations for the Florence Uniied School District.