New vehicles funded by the 2014 Bond program are helping the AISD transportation department serve an unfortunately growing population – students dealing with homelessness or unstable housing situations. The AISD is dedicated to getting these students to school regardless of where they may be living.
Known as FIT, the Families in Transition program stems from the McKinney-Vento Act – federal legislation that calls for school districts to transport students free of charge to their school of origin, even if they are now staying outside the district’s boundaries.
“We go wherever the kids are,” said Debbie Swenson, AISD transportation regular education router foreman, formerly responsible for coordinating transportation for the FIT students. “That might be a shelter or a parking lot in the DFW metroplex.”
School counselors and social workers identify the students in need of this service and alert the transportation department. The number of students who need it can change from day to day. Currently, about 250 are picked up daily. When Swenson started with the program 10 years ago, 230 students needed the service that year. Last year, 700 students needed it. This year, the number will almost certainly grow higher, as already 500 students have needed the service at one time or another.
With numbers growing, so does the need for vehicles. Typically, an AISD school bus picks up the students still living within the district, while six Suburbans travel outside the district to pick up the others.
The bond has been very instrumental in helping transform the district’s Suburban fleet to newer vehicles in order to meet the demands of the FIT program and others. White fleet service vehicles range from golf carts to pick-up trucks and help the district meet all of its infrastructure needs. Over the course of five years, the AISD is purchasing 150 new white fleet vehicles with bond funds. To date, 74 have been ordered and received.
“The newer vehicles support our efforts in providing safer and more efficient vehicles in transporting our students and school district employees,” said Tim Collins, AISD director of transportation, about the Suburbans used to pick up students in the FIT program.