How one county grew attendance for foster youth from 29% to 78%

Chronic absenteeism remains a pressing concern for youth throughout the United States. Recent data from the White House shows that K–12 school attendance has been decreasing since the COVID-19 pandemic began, highlighting the need for strategic interventions and support systems to ensure all students have equal opportunities to engage in their education and succeed academically. 

HopSkipDrive’s mission — to create opportunity for all through mobility — serves to address this issue by providing safe and reliable school transportation solutions that expand students’ access to the education they deserve, regardless of their circumstances.

Riverside County Office of Education (RCOE) in California provides a wide range of educational services to the county’s 23 school districts and more than 430,000 students. After hearing about HopSkipDrive’s positive impact on neighboring San Bernardino County schools, RCOE was inspired to bring that same transformative energy to its Alternative Education (AE) Community School Program — which provides educational services for students in grades 7–12 who have been expelled from their home district. 

By partnering with HopSkipDrive, RCOE AE is aiming to promote regular school attendance by removing transportation barriers for these at-risk students. 

Bridging the transportation gap for at-risk youth

Students who participate in RCOE’s Alternative Education Community School Program do so for an average of 51 days before going back to their home district — and they do not always have guaranteed busing during this time. With a stability rate under 1% — indicating that less than 1% of students receive a full year of uninterrupted learning in one school — students in RCOE’s program can face significant disruptions to their educational continuity. 

Of the students enrolled in RCOE’s Community School Program, 4.2% are living in foster care, 4.6% are experiencing homelessness, and 84% are facing socio-economic disadvantages. Particularly concerned about attendance records for seventh- and eighth-grade students living in foster care or experiencing homelessness, RCOE understands that keeping these kids in school requires a multi-pronged approach that includes an innovative and safe way to get them to and from school every day.

Navigating foster youth transportation

For RCOE Community Program students living in the foster care system, the transitionary period between getting expelled from their home district to starting in RCOE’s program often involves uncertainties and logistical challenges — especially when it comes to transportation arrangements. Home districts and foster homes are responsible for ensuring transportation, but delays and confusion in determining who will arrange and coordinate transportation for foster youth during this transition period can complicate an already challenging situation. 

There are gaps in providing reliable transportation for students, exacerbated by the need for transportation departments to establish new routes and determine pickup and drop-off times. This challenge is compounded by the delicate balance transportation departments must strike when they are already limited on bus drivers. Consequently, once a student is expelled from their home district, there can be a delay of up to 10 days before reliable transportation is arranged. “If a student doesn’t have guaranteed transportation during those 10 days, they’re not attending school,” reports Deanna McCarty, Executive Director, Riverside County Office of Education.

HopSkipDrive has been happy to be able to step in to help fill that gap so these students don’t have to miss a single day of school.

Reliable transportation can boost school attendance, and more

RCOE’s partnership with HopSkipDrive facilitated 420 rides for RCOE students during the 2022–2023 school year. This is one of several initiatives RCOE has undertaken to improve attendance rates for students in their Alternative Education Community School Program who face barriers to attendance. Notably, the attendance rate for RCOE Community School Program students living in foster care surged from 29% to 78.6% between November 2022 and April 2023, demonstrating the effectiveness of such targeted interventions.

RCOE reports that the collaboration with HopSkipDrive has also provided students and their caregivers with peace of mind, as they now know they have a dependable means of getting to and from school.

One mother shared how HopSkipDrive provided invaluable assistance when she found herself often having to work late, which meant she was unable to pick up her child from school. By contacting the social worker at RCOE, she was able to arrange a HopSkipDrive ride for her child, who arrived home safely and on time. Her story is one of many instances where HopSkipDrive has stepped in to alleviate the challenges faced by not only schools and districts but also working parents.

Removing barriers and solving problems

RCOE’s leadership has praised numerous things about HopSkipDrive, including the convenience and commitment to safety. In addition, RCOE appreciates the flexibility, real-time ride tracking, ease of use, and ability to cancel rides the HopSkipDrive platform provides. Unlike other providers, HopSkipDrive allows for last-minute scheduling, helping to address real-time needs as they arise for students and their families. 

HopSkipDrive has, according to RCOE, quickly and significantly eased the logistical burdens of ensuring Community Program students have regular access to dependable transport. “The students are in school, and that’s a major thing. They’ve showed up every day since we got them connected with HopSkipDrive. We thank HopSkipDrive for caring.”

The students enrolled in RCOE’s Alternative Education Community School Program are constantly changing — there are always new students. And when students are successful in the program, they go back to their home district. Based on the overall positive experience and proven outcomes seen to date, RCOE plans to continue working with HopSkipDrive to help ensure these kids have access to the transportation they need to support their educational journeys.

Success stories like this partnership with Riverside County Office of Education highlight the tangible impact of HopSkipDrive’s innovative solutions in ensuring equitable access to education for all students.

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