TOLLESON, Ariz. — It’s been called an Uber-like transportation service for students, and now, more than 50 Valley families are using the service, helping get their children to and from school a bit easier.
The Tolleson Union High School District is still using the yellow school bus, but with this program, they’re able to bring in more students from outside their boundaries, helping alleviate the school bus driver shortage.
“The state opened up these transportation, innovative grants, ran by A for Arizona,” said Jeremy Calles, Tolleson Union High School District’s CFO. “They awarded $20 million out in total for the state, with a max award of $2 million.”
That lead to a major movement.
“Tolleson got the max award of $2 million,” Calles said.
That funding has translated into a pilot program called HopSkipDrive, helping kids in specific populations get to school in a new way.
“They are homeless or families in transition,” he said. “By federal law, we’re required to transport them.”
“These are typically really long routes that are outside the district’s boundary,” Calles added. “By moving those over to HopSkipDrive, we’re able to free up some of our drivers.”
Never heard of HopSkipDrive?
“It’s a safe, student transportation solution enabled by technology and powered caregivers on wheels,” said Miriam Ravkin, HopSkipDrive’s Senior VP of Marketing.
“A school director of transportation has their app on their desktop, and they can see all the rides happening and a parent would download the app in the app store and they would pre-schedule a ride for their kid and then they’ll be able to see once a care driver is en route, picks them up and they can see when the ride is in progress and once it completes,” Ravkin said.
The program is not only helping students get to school safely, but it’s also alleviating stress on the district, as they work through a critical bus driver shortage.
“In Tolleson alone, we’ve seen a 10x increase, since December to February in the amount of children that HopSkipDrive is driving,” Ravkin said.
The program is allowing Tolleson to take advantage of the grant and HopSkipDrive to help even more kids to get to school.
“My stepson rides in on HopSkipDrive and we love it,” Calles said.
Tolleson is one of 200 districts across the country HopSkipDrive is now working with.
As for the care drivers- they go through stringent background checks, including fingerprinting. They must have at least 5 year of caregiving experience and a desire to help kids in their community.
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