Washougal School District Transportation Department is adjusting transportation, allowing all buses to start from the recently remodeled transportation facility on Evergreen Way rather than from Cape Horn-Skye Elementary.
This change was made possible by the voter approved bond, which built a new bus maintenance facility and parking area with capacity to house the entire fleet. The new parking area has cameras which provide better supervision and security of the buses, preventing buses stored at Cape from being intentionally damaged, which has happened more than once in the past. It will also simplify routine maintenance for these buses without the mechanic needing to relocate a bus back and forth to the shop, something which happens almost every day.
The change in bus storage will not impact the timing of student drop off and pick up, and is not anticipated to increase costs to the district for providing student transportation per the costing information below.
In addition to the improved security, the change will also allow the transportation staff to consolidate all of their staff and services under one roof. The dispatch office and transportation supervisor will have routine contact with all of their driving staff, simplifying communication of route changes, field trip coordination, and resolution of student and parent concerns.
Currently there are 11 routes delivering students to Cape Horn-Skye Elementary, with 8 of the buses currently being stored at Cape Horn-Skye currently.
The change in bus storage will eliminate the need for the Transportation mechanics to drive up to Cape Horn-Skye Elementary, determine if they can fix the bus there, or if needed to take it to town for repairs, then turn around and drive it back up to Cape Horn-Skye Elementary and drive the truck back to town. This work happens nearly every day, and sometimes multiple times in a day.
This will be the biggest savings because the diesel mechanics are paid higher wages than our drivers, and have limited time to repair all the buses.
Some amount of cost will be saved by not having the transportation supervisor need to drive to Cape Horn-Skye Elementary to talk with drivers and assist with reviewing bus camera footage.
Other expenses that will be eliminated: Cost of fuel delivery, pump maintenance, fuel spills and time to clean up, heating and cooling of the driver portable at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary, custodial time, maintaining an addition printer and computer, extra tools, parts, and supplies. It just costs more to run two facilities in general.
The move will facilitate dispatcher communication and coordination, and mean they spend less time on the phone with drivers at the remote site, which does take extra time and ties them up if parents are also trying to contact the dispatch office with concerns or questions.
The move will also mean the transportation department does not need to store spare buses at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary in addition to the route buses. Staff currently need to keep three up there for drivers to use incase safety items like lights and buzzers don’t work during safety checks, drained batteries that cause a bus not to be in service, or larger issues that mechanics can’t resolve quickly enough to get the bus in service before routes start. We also need to keep an extra field trip bus up there that has under storage and is new enough to go long distances, this bus is used 10% as much as the town field trip buses causing uneven wear and tear on the others. For comparison in town the transportation department keeps four full size spare buses and three field trip buses for all other routes, which is very efficient since the mechanics are on site and can quickly resolve problems. Overall, Transportation staff may be able to reduce the number of spare buses maintained in our fleet after this move.
Two years ago, half of the buses previously stored at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary were moved to the new Transportation facility when it opened, which proved to be more efficient and better for everyone.
Our Transportation staff take safety very seriously. We work with schools to teach students expectations for behavior on buses, and have a positive reward system for reinforcing these rules. We drive roads early each morning during inclement weather to be sure our buses can safely reach students. Our staff undergo yearly training on safety routines and are first aid certified, we conduct evacuation drills with students, and our fleet is inspected by the Washington State Patrol. All of these measures, and our adjustment to the storage of buses at Cape, are investments that will get students to and from school safely, quickly, and efficiently.
After this move, our great transportation staff will still be able to provide the same excellent service to Cape Horn-Skye Elementary and Canyon Creek Middle School on a regular basis, as well as during emergency situations that might arise. The response time for staff to arrive at Cape from the main transportation facility is 17 minutes. There are a large number of full day employees with the CDL endorsement to drive buses who are already at the transportation office and who can respond immediately during an emergency. It has always been part of our emergency response plan to utilize these employees who are already on staff and are at work. It would not be prudent to have an emergency plan which relies on drivers who may or may not be in the vicinity of a school, who are not being paid by the district, and are not expected to be “on call.”