School bus route designs – trial

Earlier this term you received a communication regarding school bus changes to start from the beginning of Term Four. The Board has since decided to run a trial of changes over the course of Term Four and then review the results. The trial will commence in the third week of term.

Why do we need changes? 

One of the most important responsibilities for our school is ensuring the health and safety of our students. In recent years we have been attempting to improve the school bus service so that it meets the needs of as many students as possible, possibly at the expense of maximising safety.

The Board of Trustees has endorsed the proposed changes for reasons important to the school and the Board: to improve safety for all, manage capacity and get children to and from school on time. We have concerns about the bus currently having to reverse onto roads, and our bus runs are regularly delayed. This compounds and causes children to arrive late to school, and to stay after school much later than they should. If a designated adult is not at a bus stop, their children will now stay on the bus and be returned to school.

School bus policy 

Parents might be interested to know about how our school bus operation is funded. The school is part of the Direct Resourcing funding programme which works like this:

  • The Ministry takes our student bus lists from the school’s student management system and identifies all of the eligible students. 
  • Eligible students are those that live more than 3.2km from school and are attending their nearest appropriate school. 
  • The Ministry calculates the funding on the basis of eligible students and gives this to the school. 
  • With the funding in hand, the school has control over the actual bus route operated, within some limits set down by the Ministry. 
  • The Board can decide to collect students that live too close to school or who aren’t attending their closest school. The Board decides on bus stops and develops rules and procedures that parents and students must follow if they want to use the service. 

Route design principles 

We have now engaged Greig from School Admin to provide support for our school bus operation. Greig brings almost 20 years of experience in school buses and he manages bus routes across New Zealand from Great Barrier Island all the way to Southland. Our advice from Greig is that the first thing we need to do is set down some principles for how we manage our school bus. Here are the draft principles:

  1. Parents need to share in the responsibility of getting their children to school. In some cases, this might mean taking their child to the bus stop. 
  2. We want to provide the best service possible, but we also need to be realistic about the time it would take to provide a door-to-door service to every family. 
  3. Safety is the most important factor in route design, which leads to decisions about the direction the bus travels, the location of bus stops, reducing the number of dangerous turns, and avoiding reversing the bus as much as possible. 
  4. Final decisions regarding assigning students to bus routes and the order of bus routes are made by the principal. 

New route designs 

With thanks to Steve Oliver inspiring this route review process, we have four proposed new routes. These routes are designed to meet the principles described above. 

The trial is designed to test whether the proposed route changes are workable. Throughout the trial, parents will be able to offer their feedback and ideas via our new school bus website:

At the end of the trial, the Board of Trustees will take into account all of the feedback received and will make final decisions on how the bus routes will operate from 2020. 

Replacing our bus 

The Board is continuing to consider the replacement of our bus. The current bus is legal and fits within the Ministry’s age standards so there is no immediate requirement to replace it. The market for secondhand buses has dried up due to the Ministry of Education changing their rules about what makes a suitable school bus. The Board will continue to talk through this matter, and welcomes your ideas.

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