Carpool service helps Tolleson students get to school

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TOLLESON, AZ – The Tolleson Union High School District is launching a new pilot program that allows parents in underserved communities to use a carpool service to get children to and from school.

The district secured a $ 2 million transportation grant from the state’s $ 20 million “A for Arizona” grant program.

CFO Jeremy Calles said the state believes in its program so much that it has received the maximum amount of funding allowed.

The pilot program is for children who fall under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, who are in foster care or who choose open enrollment and who live outside of the district boundaries.

“Of course, as any parent knows, it is very hectic in the morning. You are getting ready for work, but you also have to worry about getting your child to school can be a lot for a parent in the morning,” Calles said.

Calles says the program is designed to ease the burden of transportation for those who need it most.

“So we are able to take that off their plate by now offering them this transport to get them on our bus line,” he said.

The district is partnering with the Hop Skip Drive carpooling service, a service specially designed for parents with children.

“They now have the option of just opening an app and planning all of their transportation needs. “

After picking up the student at home, the carpooling service drops them off at the last bus stop on the route and the students take the bus for the last stop to school. Parents can follow their child’s progress in real time through the app.

“What we are doing is creating a hub and spoke model where the driver will pick up the student from his home, take him to the last bus stop we have, then he will take the bus to the school in that last bus stop, so it’s a very short bus ride, ”Calles said.

“By doing this, we can make sure this Hop Skip Drive driver skips the lines for our parents.”

Calles says the program has only been operational for a few weeks. They currently serve just over a dozen students, but hope to expand the program soon and offer it to 300 students.

Drivers of the Hop Skip Drive carpooling must pass a rigorous 15-point background check and have at least five years of experience as a licensed caregiver.

“They really love making a difference in their community and helping kids get to school,” said Senior Vice President of Marketing Miriam Ravkin.

Ravkin says Hop Skip Drive is a perfect solution to the nationwide school bus driver shortage.

“Because we are able to take any inefficient route, or students with special needs, homeless students or students in foster care, we free up their resources so that the bus drivers can take the children on the regular route, ”she said.

“And so, it definitely solves the shortage of bus drivers because there are no more inefficient bus lines and more transit hours.”

The company is based in Los Angeles and is currently available in eight cities. Ravkin says they are proud to partner with the Tolleson District and serve the Phoenix area community.

“They called us a lifeline and we’re so happy to do it,” Ravkin said.

“I’m so happy because some of the kids we lead have no other way to get to school without us because not everyone has a parent who can lead them.”

Calles says the district will collect program data in hopes of securing an extension once the initial grant funding runs out.

“I would really love to have this service for all of our students,” Calles said.

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