At the 2008 School Transportation News Conference and Trade Show that will continue at the Grand Sierra Resort until Wednesday, school district transportation directors, special needs coordinators, school bus safety instructors, superintendents and Head Start program directors all are receiving an education about how school transportation and security needs, including those for disabled or special needs students, can be improved.
This year, the big trend is the environment and several workshops are being offered on alternative fuels and saving transportation dollars.
School Transportation News (STN), a monthly magazine that publishes information specifically related to the yellow buses – such as security, practices and trends – is hosting the expo.
Bill Paul, STN publisher, said the magazine has put on the conference for 15 years, 12 of which have been in Reno.
“We offer 45 workshops on all kinds of subject and we have a one-day trade show with 125 vendors that show buses and all kinds of products,” Paul said.
The role of the school bus and its consumption of gasoline is such a critical issue that the expo invited former senator and environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to speak. In his keynote address on Monday he urged participants to consider the connection between energy and prosperity.
“We’re protecting the environment for our own sake,” he said. “The environment is the infrastructure of our own community.”
Kennedy, chief prosecuting attorney for Riverkeeper, an organization that serves as an environmental watchdog that brings lawsuits against companies that pollute rivers and waterways, has remained politically active to help schools explore their options in the fight for cost- and energy-saving prototype vehicles.
“With school buses traveling 4.3 billion miles each year, at, let’s say, a buck a mile, if you cut that in half, you’d be saving billions of dollars,” he said.
The demand for oil production has stretched Americans’ wallets too far, Kennedy said, encouraging the school transportation officials to consider the use of other energy sources, such as solar power or wind.
“We don’t have to abolish carbon emissions to understand it is the drag on the American economy,” Kennedy said.
Such emissions that can create pollutants in the air affect everyone’s health, something that hits Kennedy close to home, he shared, with three sons who have asthma.
“Most of their asthma (attacks) are triggered by bad air,” he said. “We’re living in a (science-fiction) nightmare where children can no longer take part in seminal activities like hiking, canoeing or camping. They can’t enjoy those pristine landscapes.”
Being energy conscious and protecting the environment as much as possible, particularly in the school bus industry, Kennedy concluded, “enriches us aesthetically and socially.”
Today, the STN will have at its trade show several models of school buses that display some new technology on the market for drivers to have a clearer line of sight for students who board and adjustable seats to allow for wheelchairs for special needs students.
The conference is taking place in the Grand Ballroom of the Grand Sierra Resort and ends Wednesday.