Detroit Public Schools Community District leverages multimodal transportation to improve attendance

Lessons from our recent co-presentation at the Council of Great City Schools, where Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) and HopSkipDrive shared about enabling a diversified transportation mix that means 100% of riders can get to school.

Detroit Public Schools Community District and HopSkipDriveHopSkipDrive is proud to be working with education clients across the country to tackle the complex transportation challenges facing districts and schools today. As a hands-on, dedicated partner, we work alongside our clients to help ensure every student has a safe, reliable way to get to and from school every day.

We recently joined one of our education partners, Detroit Public Schools Community District, in offering a collaborative presentation at the Council of the Great City Schools Chief Operating Officers meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. There, we highlighted the innovative work DPSCD’s transportation department has been doing in partnership with HopSkipDrive to address the district’s increased McKinney-Vento transportation needs — and combat chronic absenteeism for students experiencing homelessness, youth living in foster care, and other students with individualized needs. 

In Detroit, 40% of school-aged children — more than 48,000 students in total — attend DPSCD schools. The district faces a unique set of challenges, which are compounded by high poverty rates and a lack of reliable transportation options for many families.

Recognizing the need for new solutions, DPSCD has taken a bold step forward by embracing a multimodal transportation approach. By partnering with HopSkipDrive and other supplemental transportation providers, the district is expanding its fleet beyond the conventional yellow bus, incorporating smaller vehicles, vans, and alternative modes of transportation. This strategic shift is not only alleviating the strain on the district’s resources but it is also helping to ensure that every student — regardless of their individual needs or circumstances — has access to safe, dependable transportation.

Combating chronic absenteeism with a collaborative approach

According to the Department of Education, students are considered chronically absent when they miss at least 15 days of school in a year. Absenteeism is a pervasive issue that disproportionately affects students from lower-income families and those facing housing instability. In DPSCD, where the poverty rate is a staggering 78%, the impact of absenteeism on student success cannot be understated. 

Compounding these challenges, DPSCD faces significant financial hurdles in maintaining its existing transportation infrastructure. Despite a 21% decrease in the number of bus drivers over the past five years, the district has seen a 15% increase in overall transportation costs. This rise is primarily attributed to escalating expenses related to insurance, parts, and labor. Consequently, the cost per bus has skyrocketed by an alarming 36%, placing an immense strain on the district’s resources.

Through its partnership with HopSkipDrive, DPSCD is taking proactive steps to address these challenges head-on. By leveraging HopSkipDrive’s expertise in supplemental school transportation solutions, DPSCD is now able to offer personalized services for students with unique needs, especially those experiencing homelessness, living in foster care, or navigating IEPs

“With HopSkipDrive, we can swiftly meet the changing needs of highly mobile populations. The RideIQ platform streamlines ride adjustments and scheduling, enhancing our ability to provide reliable transportation services for all students while optimizing resources and time management.”

—Aaron Walter, DPSCD Executive Director of Transportation

With this and other solutions in their toolkit, DPSCD is seeing a reduction in chronic absenteeism, dropping 14 percentage points from the 2021–2022 school year to the current 2023–2024 school year. This not only reflects the district’s improved identification and support for vulnerable students but it also highlights the effectiveness of the multimodal transportation approach DPSCD has adopted.

By diversifying its transportation options and collaborating with innovative partners like HopSkipDrive, DPSCD is creating a more sustainable system for the future. The multimodal approach allows the district to optimize its resources, reducing reliance on the traditional bus fleet and mitigating the impact of rising costs associated with maintaining aging vehicles. 

Expanding transportation options for more educational opportunities

DPSCD’s journey toward equitable transportation is not a solitary one. The district has forged partnerships with a network of vendors, acquired a fleet of vans, and integrated public transit options to create a comprehensive and flexible transportation system. By matching each student with the most appropriate mode of transportation, DPSCD is ensuring that individual needs are met while also optimizing resources and minimizing costs.

The impact of this multifaceted approach extends far beyond the daily commute. By providing reliable transportation, DPSCD is not only improving attendance rates but also opening doors to educational opportunities that may have previously been out of reach for many students. HopSkipDrive’s ability to provide swift transportation solutions and valuable data on student attendance patterns through cutting-edge technology has been instrumental in helping the district identify areas for improvement and track progress toward its goals. 

HopSkipDrive is on a mission to empower students and families, remove barriers to education, and enhance the overall school experience. Innovative partnerships like this one serve as an example of how districts and schools can leverage HopSkipDrive’s commitment to modernizing school transportation to meet the needs of kids, families, schools, and communities today. 

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