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Lake Washington School District transportation department scores 100 percent efficiency rating
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has released its transportation efficiency ratings for school districts around the state. The Lake Washington School District’s (LWSD) rating was 100 percent. School district transportation operations were evaluated for efficiency using a statistical process. Among the data included in the analysis is the number of students transported between home and school and the location of each school bus stop and related destinations.
As part of its analysis, OSPI determines the expected allocation of funds that would be needed to pay for the transportation operations of that district. OSPI calculated that the standard cost to pay for the current routes and numbers of students transported by LWSD would be about $8.1 million. The next calculation adjusts for the district’s past actual expenditures to predict what the district will spend on that program. In this case, because of Lake Washington’s proven level of efficiency, that number was adjusted downward to $7.7 million.
“Our transportation department staff members have the experience and training to run our transportation system cost-effectively,” noted Janene Fogard, deputy superintendent for operational services. “They continue to improve operations while balancing student service, efficiency and safety.”
The transportation department has focused on continually improving its efficiency, particularly when the department budget was cut for the 2009-10 school year in response to state budget cuts, based on community input. The result over the years has been fewer bus routes and consolidation of bus stops.
“There is a trade-off in the level of service for this efficiency,” noted Fogard. “We have to balance efficiency with ensuring reasonable lengths of bus rides and walks to bus stops. We also have to ensure there is no compromise to safety.”
This greater efficiency has ensured that LWSD spends less per student on transportation than the eight other districts in the state with more than 20,000 students except for Kent School District, according to financial data compiled by OSPI. Lake Washington spent $282.73 per student in 2010-11 (the latest year for which comparable data is available) compared to the $396.80 average for large districts. Kent spent $276.91 per pupil. Lake Washington’s expenditures also compare favorably with smaller school districts nearby, which range from the $274.14 per student spent by a more urban Bellevue to $411.96 by Issaquah.
To ensure efficiency, the department employs the most widely-used specialized school bus routing software, Versatrans. All transportation office staff are fully trained in its use and receive updated training periodically. Transportation staff members attend quarterly meetings to share best practices with transportation staff from other school districts in the area that use the same software.
Six transportation department staff members, who average 26 years of experience each, manage approximately 595 bus routes and up to 35 additional field trip or athletic team trips a day. Among those 595 routes per day are specialized routes that serve some special education students as well as routes to get morning elementary band students to band practice and to school. The department also provides service to over 200 homeless students under the federal McKinney-Vento Act. Transportation is constantly changing as the needs of students and schools change. Staff members maintain the routing system, respond to bus stop questions/changes, address parent inquiries and provide new and ongoing training for drivers.