McKinney-Vento to IEP transportation: How our solution can help
Written by Aylin Cook
School transportation immediately brings to mind the big yellow school bus, which is still the best option when it comes to fulfilling many regular school transportation needs. Due to varying circumstances, however, some students need an alternative school transportation option — one that supplements the traditional school bus.
HopSkipDrive partners with many schools, districts and government agencies to facilitate transportation for students who have non-routine transportation needs.
Below, we outline the alternative transportation needs our solution helps to address. We also discuss how we partner with educational organizations to help ensure that all students have access to educational opportunities.
HopSkipDrive helps to enable:
1. Transportation for students experiencing homelessness (under McKinney-Vento designation)
2. School-of-origin transportation for youth in foster care
3. Transportation for students with individualized education plans (IEPs)
4. Transportation for students enrolled in continuing technical education programs (CTEs)
5. Transportation for nonprofits working with youth
6. Transportation for students with special needs
7. Transportation for field trips or other small group activities
8. Transportation for students in internships or work-study programs
Every August, school transportation directors receive a list of McKinney-Vento students but students can be added to or removed from this list throughout the school year as their circumstances change. There’s also a seasonality to McKinney-Vento transportation needs, as the number of youth experiencing homelessness tends to increase over winter break.
While many McKinney-Vento students can be added to existing bus routes, HopSkipDrive partners with school districts to provide a cost-effective, safe and efficient alternative student transportation solution for students who are experiencing homelessness.
We work in partnership with districts to plan and iterate routes for students who qualify for McKinney-Vento transportation. Our innovative technology and Safe Ride Support team also provide pivotal visibility for transportation coordinators.
Reducing chronic absenteeism through transportation
Chronic absenteeism is high among McKinney-Vento populations, often due to a lack of access to reliable transportation. This puts these students at a huge disadvantage.
Chronic absences can have a serious impact on a student’s graduation prospects and overall educational outcomes. Blame for chronic absenteeism used to be placed on parents or students themselves but in many cases, the family is simply unable to get the student to school without great personal or financial sacrifices.
HopSkipDrive’s alternative school transportation solution helps families and schools get students who are experiencing homelessness to school and other activities, and also helps to ensure they have access to needed services. Our reliable and responsive CareDriver network provides another benefit: a consistent experience, which is especially important for students whose lives are in a state of flux.
Transportation for youth in foster care
There are more than 390,000 children and youth in foster care nationwide, and statistics show that by the time youth in foster care reach their junior year, around one-third will have changed schools an average of five times. Each time this population changes schools, they lose four to six months of academic progress, one of the factors contributing to a 50% graduation rate for youth in foster care.
Fortunately, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) dictates that counties and districts work together to ensure that youth in foster care receive transportation to their school of origin — or the school they were enrolled in when they were removed from their home. Staying at the same school is incredibly important for these students’ emotional well-being and academic success.
Behind the scenes, counties and districts share the responsibility of getting students to and from their school of origin, even when the student has moved to a new home outside of normal bus routes. Transportation must be provided immediately, so an unexpected move can sometimes leave a district or county scrambling to find a way to get a student to school the very next day.
That’s where HopSkipDrive comes in — we work with districts and counties to fill in the gaps. On the HopSkipDrive platform, rides can be built out with only eight hours' notice.
The Los Angeles Foster Youth School Stability pilot
What started with a two-year pilot program with the Los Angeles County of Education and Department of Child and Family Services — the largest foster care system in the United States — now has HopSkipDrive providing an alternative school transportation solution for many foster youth under this mandate.
Our work with the Los Angeles Foster Youth School Stability pilot showed that our solution is cost-effective and scalable. Our team can be responsive, shifting routes when a student moves to another home or is reunited with their family. While bus routes or other transportation plans may take weeks to build out, the flexibility of our solution allows for next-day transportation, regardless of the distance to school.
Our service is also hands-on: Our dedicated Client Services team works with districts and county social workers to ensure every student is delivered safely and on time.
“The transportation needs of foster youth can change frequently and HopSkipDrive has consistently helped to meet those needs,” says LA County education specialist Tina Garcia. “Being able to continue attending their school of origin is often the most stability they have in their lives, and that would have been impossible for many of them without HopSkipDrive.”
HopSkipDrive now helps transport foster youth in multiple states and counties, including Arapahoe County in Colorado.
“HopSkipDrive has fulfilled every ride we’ve ever requested and is always reachable and super responsive,” says Kala Slater, Arapahoe County’s Office Support Supervisor. “Couple that level of service with the stability that HopSkipDrive gives back to youth in foster care and the result is something truly special.”
Transportation for students with IEPs
Many students with special needs attend mainstream schools and receive additional classes or resources to help them thrive. These students often have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that may necessitate a non-routine schedule. If an IEP includes a transportation requirement, districts are responsible for providing that transportation.
Some students with special needs may also be unable to ride the bus due to unique physical or behavioral challenges. These students can benefit from accommodations — and alternate transportation solutions like HopSkipDrive. For students, taking a ride with a CareDriver is a calming and welcome alternative to crowded public transit or a traditional school bus.
HopSkipDrive provides an alternative school transportation solution customized for each unique schedule and child’s needs. Beyond the flexibility of our model, we provide CareDrivers with educational resources that give them the necessary background to work with riders with special needs. Rider profile notes in the HopSkipDrive app ensure that CareDrivers know how to approach each specific child.
Our Safe Ride Support team watches every ride in real-time and can respond immediately to any situation that arises, while our client operations team is available to assist district representatives with any questions they may have.
Parents and caregivers can also be linked to their child’s HopSkipDrive profile so they can monitor rides in real-time.
Littleton Public Schools
Littleton Public Schools serves 15,000 students, including many with Individual Education Plans. The district once used a van service to transport kids to their alternative campus, but found that service to be unreliable and costly.
“HopSkipDrive is not only 60% less expensive than our previous solution but it also far more reliable,” says Mike Hush, Director of Transportation for the district. “We had worked with HopSkipDrive for only a few weeks before we quadrupled the number of students riding with CareDrivers, and we’ll continue to expand district ridership with them.”
Career and technical education (CTE)
Many schools offer career and technical education training, an alternative educational pathway that emphasizes real-world skills and highly focused, industry-specific knowledge. These programs can be a direct path to a career they’re interested in starting immediately. For many students, it allows them to skip the college debt and start earning money right away, which is one reason it’s become increasingly popular.
One of the barriers in CTE programs, particularly for lower-income or at-risk youth, is transportation. Many of the job or job training opportunities are off-site or after school. If students miss work due to a lack of transportation, they could lose their job.
Centinela Valley Union High School
School districts like Centinela Valley Union High School District use HopSkipDrive to enable transportation for students to get to and from CTE job opportunities.
“It’s definitely really convenient to be able to have your students driven to a job safely and on time,” says Sean Hiller, MCA Coordinator at Leuzinger High School in the Centinela Valley District. “Anybody trying to help kids get experience in the community, I think it’s the only way to go.”
Hiller used to drive his students to and from their jobs, but that’s not always possible. HopSkipDrive has enabled students like OD and Azul to obtain and keep important internship opportunities.
Azul credits HopSkipDrive with bringing him to his internship with BLE Sparks, and OD appreciates the opportunities transportation access provides.
“HopSkipDrive has given students like me a sense of assurance in their transportation needs,” says OD. “It’s allowed me to really spread my wings in a way.”
HopSkipDrive is working with other organizations, and hopes to repeat this success with other districts, charter schools and vocational schools so students can take advantage of CTE opportunities.
Transportation for nonprofits
Many nonprofit organizations provide resources for kids and teens that greatly enrich their lives. However, transportation can be a definite barrier to access for many families who would like to use these services.
For example, a parent may want their child to take advantage of after-school programs but they have no way to get them there. This is yet another situation where HopSkipDrive can help. We partner with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Getty and others to provide access to educational enrichment opportunities.
HopSkipDrive is pleased to partner with schools, districts, counties, nonprofits and other organizations to help arrange safe, reliable transportation so students and youth can access the opportunities they deserve.