At the April meeting of the Bellwood-Antis School Board of Directors recently held in the Meyers Elementary School LGI Room the school board members were provided three very diverse presentations as part of the school board meeting. Two were presented by students of the school district. The third was provided by Shae Harkleroad, owner of Raystown Transportation. Raystown Transportation provides the school bus and school van transportation contract to the Bellwood-Antis School District.

Harkleroad began his presentation with some well timed humor as he stated to the school board members, “I seem to always pick the toughest acts to follow when I am to be giving any type of presentation. Tonight I now need to follow two exceptionally well presented programs from the first grade and fifth grade students. The pressure really now is on,” Harkleroad said.

“I am very happy to say that this school year was year number 13 that we have been your partner in providing the students of the district with their transportation,” Harkleroad said.

The presentation then described what it was like 13 years ago and how the school bus transportation industry has changed and completely evolved into a very different type of organization. “Thirteen years ago started with the same school bus runs that we had today and two vans. Today the runs are so very different from what they were 13 years ago,” Harkleroad pointed out.

In today’s school transportation the school buses are running in the morning, late morning and early afternoon, again after school and then activities after that. In addition, due to the changes in having to provide programs transportation to different facilities Raystown Transportation now operates seven school vans. These vans are operating at the same time many times as they are heading in different directions to go to different destinations. Harkleroad brought that point home during his presentation when he indicated to the school board members, “Currently we are providing school transportation to several locations in Blair County and we are also now traveling to a center in Bedford County as well.”

The state mandates what programs must be afforded to students and if that program is not available in the local district then transportation must be made available to take the students to a center that offered those types of programs that are required. “Although the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) makes those mandates as to where the students must be transported, they do not make any allowances for the additional cost of providing that transportation,” Harkleroad said.

“There is one road we need to go to with five families that attend Bellwood-Antis School District. The lane that they live on cannot be served by a bus so it has to be performed by a school van. It is located in the most northern part of the school district. In order to get to the lane the van is required to drive through parts of Altoona School District and Penn Cambria School District before arriving to pick up the students. It is situations like these that make the school bus transportation budgets so very difficult to budget for. Especially when all of the added van routes need to be factored into the equation,” Harkleroad concluded.

“We have been blessed here at Raystown as the staff that we have is really made up of people who really care. After 13 years, we have only two of the original drivers still driving. All of the other drivers are new,” Harkleroad shared.

Chuck Banas can be reached at cbanas@thedailyherald.net.

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