Henrico County Public Schools (Henrico) is the sixth largest public school division in Virginia, and is comprised of 72 schools and program centers serving more than 50,000 students. The division’s schools reflect the geographic diversity of Henrico County, and lie in bustling near-urban and suburban settings; small towns; and quiet rural areas.
Looking to find a way to simplify and drive economic efficiencies within its special needs transportation program, Henrico began thinking about outsourcing to a third-party provider. “We had two subsets of students we were transporting – exceptional education and private placement special needs students, and McKinney Vento,” said Josh Davis, Director of Pupil Transportation, Henrico County Public Schools. “Fluctuation in both demand for these services, as well as available drivers and vehicles was creating some challenges for our district. What we really needed were professional drivers, well-maintained vehicles, and a way to transport our special needs students that we could afford.”
ALC Schools’ Model for Alternative Transportation Needs
ALC Schools supplements districts’ transportation programs using a combination of SUVs, minivans, wheelchair accessible vans, and sedans to assist in transporting McKinney-Vento, ESSA, ESE/special needs, and out-of-district students, as well as hard-to-serve and multi-district trips. Supplementing bus service with small capacity vehicles means that districts no longer pay for unused capacity and have the flexibility to expand and contract their fleet to accommodate the ever-changing demands of these student populations. ALC accomplishes all this while reducing the cost of transportation programs by 20-30%.
“We had known about ALC Schools and had been in communication with their team over the course of several years,”
recalls Davis. “While we liked what they had to offer, ALC Schools didn’t have a large footprint in our region. As they began to expand their operations, serving neighboring school districts with good success, our purchasing department became more comfortable with the idea, and this made it possible for us to engage with them for special needs transportation services.” After making the decision to outsource its special needs transportation to a third-party provider, Henrico issued an RFP. ALC School was one of two providers selected by the district to fulfill the two sub-sets of its special needs transportation program – exceptional education students and private placement special needs, an McKinney-Vento. “The decision was based on written proposals, oral presentations, experience of the providers, references, and cost,” said Davis. “Because the funding is different for each program, it made sense for us to break-up the business across ALC Schools and the other provider.”
In addition to the private placement students, Henrico is also leveraging ALC Schools to transport students to the district’s comprehensive schools. “ALC Schools has also been able to help us simplify and streamline the transportation of our out-of-district and long-distance students,” added Davis. “In these cases, it simply wasn’t practical for us to have one child on a bus.” Henrico began working with ALC Schools in August 2018. “One of the things we appreciate most about their organization is that we are able to work together to quickly resolve any issues that may arise,” said Davis. “ALC Schools will go the extra mile to ensure that not only are we comfortable with the process and the services being offered, but that the parents and students onboard are as well.”
One recent example of this was a middle-school student who was located in a very rural area. The child had been transported using a bus, but that was no longer available. Davis recalls, “We explained that we would be moving their daughter’s transportation to ALC Schools. The mom had engaged an advocate and was very adamant that her daughter have a female driver. ALC was able to find the perfect driver for us and even set up a meeting with the students, her mother, me, an ALC representative, and the driver to make sure everyone was comfortable with the situation. They showed up early before school one day, sat with them until they were comfortable, and then guided the child to the vehicle. It was smooth sailing from that point.”
Davis adds, “The child is doing well in school and with her transportation to and from school, and I can’t think of a better testament to the success of this program.” ALC Schools has also been able to help Henrico with reducing student ride times due to routing efficiencies, quick turnaround on dispatching and routing changes, and communication regarding ETAs or no-shows. “Anytime we’ve had an issue, the ALC Schools team has been able to help solve it,” said Davis. “Further, the quality of the program offered by ALC Schools and the success of our students has created more support within our Exception Education Department – they love the program so much, they’ve even uncovered funding for it.”