The transportation pilot program for Grinnell Middle School’s (GMS) after-school academic support program has taken off this Fall to address the issue of transportation as a barrier to student success. In July, the Grinnell Education Partnership (GEP) began working closely with the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District (GNCSD) to instigate a new project to address the lack of transportation for students participating in GMS’ after-school academic support programming. Incorporating the help from partnerships with GMS and the Grinnell-Newburg School Foundation (GNSF), these teams have collected their efforts to create a lasting solution for families through the provision of vehicles and drivers. This pilot program is anticipated to pave the way for future initiatives to reduce barriers to student involvement and participation, such as possibly providing a transportation option for extracurricular programs.
During an interview with GMS social worker Amy Miller on the status of after-school programming at GMS, GEP Project & Sustainability Coordinator, Jill Harris, began discussing the barriers present that are preventing students from receiving necessary academic assistance during after-school hours. Miller and Harris identified getting home as a significant hinderance to the kids’ success as students, as school buses are already finished with their routes by the time after-school programming is dismissed, and there are many parents who are unable to take time off work to provide transportation, or simply do not have the resources to do so themselves.
Turning Ideas Into Actions
Harris contacted Melissa Ford, GNCSD’s Coordinator of Special Programs, because of her important work at Grinnell High School last year organizing transportation every morning for students who could not get a ride to school or had missed the bus. Ford made inquiries to GMS staff to determine the need for this transportation, in addition to exploring the legalities, availabilities, and costs associated with the endeavor. Another partner, GNSF, determined that the project aligned well with their Support for Technology Resources, Innovation, and Participation for Every Student (STRIPES) fund mission and agreed to finance the full cost of a driver and share the cost of fuel with the GNCSD.
Adam Van Arkel, 7th and 8th grade band director at GMS, works with students in the after-school program offered on Mondays and Wednesdays with the goal of giving students the opportunity to get extra support with academics and work on their Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills and behavior. Because of Van Arkel’s previous experience and certification to provide transportation, he agreed to drive the vehicle. At first, he was averaging the transportation of 1-2 students per night, but he has since begun looking at increasing that to 3-4 students each evening as more parents have learned of this opportunity. On his routes, he also allots for the transportation of GMS students that are working with a Grinnell College student on English language learning. Van Arkel adds “the use of the GNSF funds to pay for the after-school transportation costs has created a situation where any student that wants extra help can receive it for at least two days each week.”
The process for parents to request transportation for their children is simple: on the form required to sign their child up for the after-school program is a section dedicated to transportation needs. Parents are asked to sign their student up 24 hours in advance to allow Van Arkel to make the necessary plans and accommodations for a van or school bus.
What’s To Come
Van Arkel shares, “we are so thrilled to be able to offer this support to our students at GMS, and we are excited to see the impact that it is going to have on their academics, as well as their social emotional development.” As of recent, several more families have begun to take advantage of this offer, signing up for transportation assistance on an ongoing basis.
“It certainly has been a team effort from inception to implementation,” says Ford.