D211 Post: District 211 Begins Afternoon Academic Support Session

            On August 24, Township High School District 211 began its Afternoon Academic Support Sessions.  The sessions will allow students to sign up for limited, in-person education and study assistance. 

            Through the sessions, students can sign up for support in general areas such as math tutoring labs, reading and writing support or quite studies; or they can sign up for sessions which focus on specialized content such as needing lab equipment or unique manufacturing equipment. 

            While a majority of the Afternoon Academic Support Sessions will be hosted virtually, there will be limited opportunities to schedule in-person sessions.  The sessions will have a very limited number of seats available, so students are encouraged to sign up through SignUpGenius early. 

            In-person sessions will observe very strict health and safety guidelines.  Every student who attends a session will be required to complete an online wellness survey prior to arriving at the school.  Once at school, students will have their temperature checked to verify they are fever-free.  Only students who have a scheduled session, have completed the wellness survey, and are fever-free will be allowed to enter the building.  While in the building, all students will be required to maintain appropriate social distancing and wear a face mask at all times. 

            District 211 transportation will have mid-day bus routes available for each session.  Bus information can be found in the Infinite Campus parent and student portals.  It is recommended that students report to their assigned stop 15 minutes after 4th period on the day of their scheduled sessions. 

            Any questions should be addressed to the student’s team administrator or guidance counselor. 




D211 Post: EPA Grant Aids Purchase of Additional Green Buses

            In 2018, Township High School District 211 purchased 15 propane-fueled school buses in its drive to add alternative fuel vehicles.   In March 2019, the District received a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act School Rebate Program.

            At the April 25, 2019 Board of Education meeting, it was announced that the grant money would be used to aid in the purchase an additional 15 propane-fueled buses to continue efforts to reduce diesel emissions as well as overall maintenance costs.  The new buses are scheduled for delivery in July 2019.  With the addition of the new propane buses nearly 20% of the District’s 160 bus fleet will be alternative-fueled. 

            For more information on the initial purchase of propane-fueled buses, click here.




D211 Post: Website Allows New Residents to Find Their School

One question people often have when moving into a new house within District 211 is which high school will their student attend.  By going to https://vtweb2.tylertech.com/Palatine211/elinkrp/Search.aspx parents can input their new address and look up which school’s area the home is in.  The search is available anytime, anywhere and is free to use.  Search results include a map which shows where the school is located, as well as the nearest school bus stop.  The link can also be found on District 211’s transportation website.




D211 Post: District 211 Bus Driver Passes 50 Years of Service to District

Bus Driver Bill Dahl has worked as a teacher and bus driver for District 211 for more than 50 years.

          In 1968, then High School District 211 Superintendent Gerald A. McElroy called 22-year-old Bill Dahl to the District’s administration center for an interview to teach physical education and driver’s education at the recently built James B. Conant High School.  More than 50 years later, Dahl still wakes up early every morning to start his work day with District 211.           

Dahl as a teacher in 1970.

Dahl said when he started working for the District, most teachers also doubled as bus drivers.  He said anyone who coached a sport also was encouraged to be a licensed bus driver.

            Dahl said working as a teacher and driver for the District was easy due to the environment.

            “I was 22 when I walked into that building (Conant High School) for the first time and most of the staff was the same age,” Dahl said.  “It’s been a family.  Even though the District is as big as it is, it still feels like a family.”

             Dahl has seen the District 211 bus fleet expand since the late 1960s.  His first bus was bus number 8, a bus he took over from former District 211 Superintendent, teacher, coach, and bus driver Richard Kolze, and Dahl is currently assigned to bus 631.  He said he has seen a vast evolution of transportation over the past five decades.

            “My first bus was a gasoline-fueled bus,” he said.  “Since then, I have driven diesel and now propane fueled-buses.”

            Dahl said that throughout his time with District 211, and Conant High School specifically, he has many vivid memories of how things have changed and advanced.

            “Of course, one of the biggest changes to the District is the size,” he said.  “Another of the biggest changes is special education.  People with special needs

Dahl addresses students at Conant High School’s graduation in 2001.

students move to District 211.”

            Dahl’s wife, Barb, who has been driving buses for the special education program for 28 years, said her bus includes multiple support staff personnel.

            “I have three students in wheelchairs who ride my bus,” she said.  “I have an aid and a nurse who ride along with me.”

            Dahl, who recently turned 74, said that when he retired from teaching 17 years ago, he wasn’t ready to settle down.

            “I wasn’t ready to be a couch potato,” he said.  “I am privileged to continue to work.”

            He said he still looks forward to getting up in the mornings and driving his routes.

            “I like routine in my life,” Dahl said.  “One of the best parts of my day is, I pick up my bus and get to Schaumburg High School a little early where a group of us pull out our lawn chairs.  We sit out there and talk.  The camaraderie that we have developed in transportation is very important.”

District 211 bus driver Bill Dahl (far right) talks with other drivers prior to starting his afternoon bus route at Schaumburg High School.

            Dahl added that he always was grateful for the opportunities he has had throughout his time in District 211.

            “I was so blessed that I got a call from McElroy to come in for an interview,” he said.  “In all the years I taught, I never worked; I went to school.  Even now I don’t see this as work.”




District 211 Bus Driver Recognized for Life-Saving Actions

Director of Transportation Jim Fleischman (left) and Bus Driver Ken Feeley pose at the Board of Education meeting where Ken was recognized for his life-saving actions.

Township High School District 211 Bus Driver Ken Feeley knows the students on his route. For the past year-and-a-half, he has driven students with special needs to school. Each morning is generally routine. He drives the same route, he greets students as they get on the bus, and he watches as parents say goodbye to their children as they are picked up for school.

One January morning something was different. Trusting his instinct, Feeley requested a police well-being check at a student’s house that ultimately led to an emergency response to a life-threatening situation. If not for Feeley’s familiarity with the students on his bus route, the student’s father could have died. Feeley was recognized for his actions by the Board of Education at its Feb. 16, 2017 meeting.

“Everyday when we get to this particular student’s house, he is either in the driveway or in the doorway. He comes right out to the curb when we turn the corner and his dad waits to watch him get on the bus,” Feeley said. “That day, the student wasn’t there.”

Feeley could see the storm door was closed, but the front door was open to the house. Both the student and his father were nowhere to be seen. With the radio-traffic quite busy that morning, Feeley asked an aide to check if the student was coming to school. When the aide returned to the bus with the student, Feeley asked him where his dad was. The autistic student could only reply by saying “basement.”

Knowing that the student’s father had health issues, Feeley called District 211’s dispatch to call the home to make sure everything was all right. When he learned there was no answer, he persistently requested that dispatch call the Hanover Police Department for a well-being check. Upon entering the house, Hanover Police found the student’s father unresponsive, and he was rushed to the hospital.

“The setting wasn’t right,” Feeley said. “Everything was out of sync for that particular family so I requested the check. I later found out that he was taken to the hospital. I am just happy that he got the care he needed and that he is okay.”

Jim Fleischman, director of transportation in District 211, said his department was told that if no one would have found the student’s father he could have died before someone came home.

“Our drivers, especially our special education drivers, look at students on their route as part of their family,” Fleischman said. “That is how they treat and interact with them. They also try to interact with the students’ parents as much as they can.”

Fleischman said Feeley’s actions are not only a testament to the type of bus driver he is, but also a reflection on the District’s transportation department.

“Some of our special education students can be with our District for a long time, and many times they have the same driver throughout their entire time with us,” Fleischman said. “This is particularly important for our special education students that may have a hard time dealing with change – it is important that they see the same driver and aides. That is the benefit to our in-house fleet compared to using an outside company that may have different drivers each morning.”

With a student population of nearly 12,000 students, having an in-house transportation system ensures safe travel and the District’s ability to oversee operations. On an average day, more than 9,700 students are transported to and from school each day. The in-house fleet allows drivers to create connections with students and their families, just as Feeley did.

In this particular case, Feeley’s connection to his students and community made the difference between life and death.

 




District 211 School Bus Safety Reminders for the Community as Winter Approaches

The District wants to remind the community that by taking an extra minute and obeying a school bus’ stop arm and flashing lights, fewer students are at risk for injury during their commute.

The District wants to remind the community that by taking an extra minute and obeying a school bus’ stop arm and flashing lights, fewer students are at risk for injury during their commute.

As winter weather approaches, driving conditions start to get a little more difficult. Adequate vision can be impaired during a snowstorm, and roads can get icy. That is why it’s important to remember rules of the road while driving near school buses.

During National School Bus Safety Week last month, schools all over the country celebrated school bus safety procedures and practices, as well as looked at where there is room for improvement within the community.

“The biggest concern we have as school bus drivers and in the industry as a whole is stop arm violations,” said Raymond Gawron, director of Transportation and Driver Education at District 211. “There is no way to protect kids from a stop arm violations. Our drivers check front and back, and then give them the OK to cross, but at any given time someone can commit that violation.”

Gawron said out of any sort of traffic violation, stop arm violations are the most prevalent. During one week in the beginning of the year, bus drivers were asked to keep track of how many stop arm violations were committed during that particular driver’s route and the time of day. During the week, 106 buses completed the survey and there were a total of 111 stop arm violations in District 211. On one day nationally, there were 85,279 violations, according to the National Association of Pupil Transportation Services.

When the stop arm is present and lights are flashing, that means students are boarding and exiting the bus. If students are passing in front of a bus and a vehicle ignores the stop arm, that student is at a high risk of being struck. The District wants to remind the community that by taking an extra minute and obeying a school bus’ stop arm and flashing lights, fewer students are at risk for injury during their commute.

“This is something we cannot control,” Gawron said. “Everything else we have some control over, such as what intersections to stop at, whether or not to have kids cross the street, or putting a bus on one side of the street so they don’t have to cross.”

Bus drivers have taken an active approach to try and minimize these violations by working with local police municipalities. Drivers who pass a stop arm will have their license plate recorded by the bus driver, as well as a description of the car, location of the incident, and time. This information will be passed on to the police department who will then deal with the issue.

“We work with all the police in the area, they follow through with our reports, and we are very happy with that relationship,” Gawron said. “Drivers should just be mindful of student safety and not in a hurry.”




District 211 Transportation: The Benefits, High Safety Standards of an In-house Bus Fleet

Safety, the ability to hire qualified drivers, and overseeing training of each driver are some of the few benefits to having a transportation fleet that is entirely run by the District.

Safety, the ability to hire qualified drivers, and overseeing training of each driver are some of the few benefits to having a transportation fleet that is entirely run by the District.

For High School District 211, providing transportation to all students isn’t a simple task. With a student population of more than 12,500, having an in-house transportation program helps the District oversee operations and ensure safe travel. These measures start from day one during a driver’s training, and continue on through daily routines.

Safety, the ability to hire qualified drivers, and overseeing training of each driver are some of the few benefits to having a transportation fleet that is entirely run by the District. Many school districts contract their transportation system, which has the ability to leave schools with a slight disconnect.

“One of the benefits to having an in-house transportation system is the responsiveness, the ability to build relationships between the district, drivers, and students, and connecting with the community,” said Raymond Gawron, director of Transportation and Driver Education.

On an average day, 9,751 students are transported to and from school. There are 165 transportation employees who all work to safely transport students, and District 211 hires and trains each of its drivers. Although the State of Illinois requires a minimum amount of hours for Commercial Driver’s Licenses, District 211 requires even more above and beyond state requirements. Drivers are subject to random drug testing, and if there ever is an incident or accident, the school has the right to investigate.

Each driver is required to do daily checks on their equipment before and after they drive their route, including their two-way radio. This is in correlation with the Illinois Department of Transportation and is part of the Illinois School Bus Driver Curriculum that each driver reviews annually. After each route, shift, and day, drivers are required to shut off the vehicle and walk to the rear of the bus to check for remaining passengers and lost belongings. In addition to safe transportation and equipment checks, if a vehicle is found to have a problem prior to a route, that vehicle is taken out of commission. At this point, the vehicle is brought to the bus garage on the Palatine High School campus, where District 211’s own mechanics can service it.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, District 211’s transportation fleet used 165 yellow busses and 38 vans to travel more than 1,583,769 miles. With a bus fleet of that size, having in-house, certified mechanics is extremely beneficial. If something is wrong, it can be fixed quickly by qualified individuals. It’s another measure the District can directly monitor to make sure proper safety measures are followed.

There are additional safety precautions drivers and transportation employees follow each day in District 211’s transportation fleet. Gawron added that although District 211 isn’t the only school district that manages their own transportation fleet, it’s starting to become rare. However, it’s part of the transportation department’s goal to continue having an in-house system to maintain the same quality of service and level of safety for its students.

“The highlight of transportation in District 211 and our goal is to transport our students to and from school in a safe and efficient manner,” Gawron said.