home Features Uncovering the Mysterious Origins of D.tech’s Magic School Buses

Uncovering the Mysterious Origins of D.tech’s Magic School Buses

By: Sophia Li

School buses lined up at San Mateo High School. Photo taken by Sophia Li

You’re a senior, it’s your first day at school, and the Burlingamer activities have ended. Your next destination is the San Mateo Adult School. When you open the door to freedom, out of the corner of your eye, you see a yellow flash. You’ve heard of it in the d.tech download but you’ve never seen it.

It was the yellow school bus. But where could it have come from? Did it fall from the sky, materialize out of thin air, or was it summoned here from another dimension by a wizard? I also had the same thoughts. So, I began my investigation, and what I found was shocking.

Turns out, the shuttle schedule is all meticulously planned and funded by d.tech staff!

Planning began in the spring of 2017 with Dr. Montgomery, Ms. Cerra, Christy, Hanan, Ms. Mizel, and other admin staff to finalize the Adult School and Rollins Road class scheduling. By May and June, Lana Guernsey, our new transitions consultant, had already begun conversations with the San Mateo Union High School District busing department.

But it all had to start with planning out the class schedule.

The constraints they had to work around included: the Adult School’s availability, confusion around schedules for students with morning classes at Rollins, California Education Code instructional minutes requirement, and others. “In a lot ways, the schedule was engineered around trying to be efficient and supportive of our students and trying to meet all these constraints,” Guernsey states. Their solution was to restrict the time frame to 12-5 p.m., keep period names and period time frames relatively consistent between campuses, and also compact classes together with only a two-three minute passing period.

The next task for the staff was to create the shuttle schedule. The design question was: “How many kids need to move, at what times, and what is the most cost-efficient and reliable solution?” To solve this, a period of time that was allocated for transportation between campuses called a “travel block”, was created.

Two transportation options were available to the staff – the San Mateo Union High School District’s 50-person school buses and KidzJet’s 10-person vans. The buses, priced by time and distance, cost about $220 per run and the vans, priced by time, cost $110 per hour.

The most popular travel block is during 4th period at 12:53 p.m. With 24 students to transport, it was most cost and time efficient to run a single bus. This method would allow students to get to the Adult School by 1:10 p.m. with an extra 10-15 minutes before their 5th period.

For the bus after school, the staff arranged for it to stop at the Millbrae train station with the hopes of saving students’ time. “Even though it’s a tiny added convenience, it’s our way of saying ‘We know you’ve already had a long day so we’re going to get you to Bart,’” Guernsey adds.

Time was not the only contribution that the d.tech staff made. Considering that there are four shuttles per day (one van at 12:05 p.m., one bus at 12:53 p.m., one van at 1:50 p.m., and one bus at 4:50 p.m.) the total comes down to about $660 per day without considering the extra fee for stopping at the Millbrae train station. Let’s take a moment to visualize this. Imagine a McDonald’s ice cream cone. Now imagine that times 605. If you ate one of those ice cream cones every day, it would last you for about one year and eight months. This value includes a $0.09 cent tax per cone.

These 605 McDonald’s Ice Cream Cones cost the same amount as the daily fee for the buses that d.tech students ride. And yes, that includes the tax per cone!

Though these plans really came together in August 2017, the shuttle system is still changing. For example, because of frequent requests, d.tech staff created a new 12:05 p.m. shuttle that started on Monday, September 11th, 2017. Future transportation plans will include modification to the schedule for lab days and reorganizing it again for intersession.

Guernsey also expresses that what makes this whole shuttle system work is the understanding mindset of the Seniors. Without their empathy and understanding that the system is new and temporary, the shuttle would not run as smoothly as it does now.

I also noticed clues of this while doing my research. When the 12:50 p.m. bus was late by 10 minutes one Thursday, students looked on the bright side. Senior Jonathan Ferreira stated that he was “cool about it” and he also “got some reading in”. Another senior, Sofya Shatalova, said that she was “irritated”, but she “had a good conversation with Wilgus”.

So the next time you take the shuttle, remember this fact: The shuttles are indeed summoned by wizards, and the wizards who made the magic happen were none other than the d.tech staff.

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