ALC Schools Success Story: Canyons School District (Utah)


The School District

Canyons School District is located in the southern portion of Salt Lake County in Utah. The district serves the communities of AltaCottonwood HeightsDraperMidvale and Sandy. Residents of those communities voted to create the district in 2007, making Canyons the first school district to be formed in the state in almost a century. The district officially started operating on July 1, 2009, with students attending Canyons schools for the first time that fall.

The Challenge

  • Mountain roads and steep terrain made general population bus transportation difficult

The Solution

  • ALC Schools Alternative Student Transportation Solutions

The Value

  • Smaller profile vehicles offer greater agility for navigating mountain roads
  • Reduced wear and tear on district-owned busses
  • Flexibility to expand and contract services as needed
  • Seamless management and coordination with students and families

“My experience with ALC Schools has been nothing but positive. Providing a good transportation experience for our students and their families who live in our local mountain and canyon areas had become a significant challenge for our district. ALC has expertly solved that particular headache by taking charge and ensuring both the safety of our students, and the satisfaction of their families, with the transportation of their children to and from school.” ~ Jeremy Wardle, Director of Transportation, Canyons School District.

Difficult Terrain Drives Need for Alternative School Transportation Services

Based in Sandy, Utah, which is located just south of Salt Lake City, Canyons School District is unique in that it serves residents living in Alta, a ski resort town located high in the Wasatch Mountains, as well as those living in the foothill towns of Sandy, Draper, Midvale and Cottonwood Heights. Each school year, Canyons School District is responsible for transporting around a dozen or so students who live in Alta, and reside in either Big Cottonwood Canyon or Little Cottonwood Canyon, the resort town’s two main residential areas. Yet, even with perfect weather conditions, the roads leading up to the ski resorts can be difficult to navigate in a car, much less a large school bus or other high profile, high capacity vehicle.  

“The biggest concern for our district was being able to pick up and drop off students at their homes in the canyon, in both a safe and timely manner,” said Jeremy Wardle, Director of Transportation, Canyons School District. “In some cases, our busses had to drive out of their way to find a safe place to turn around on the narrow and windy mountain roads, a task that was made more difficult after a snowfall. Further, outfitting our busses with chains during the winter, the extra service to the engine breaks and tires due to the wear and tear year-round, as well as the liability of transporting students on difficult terrain, was becoming a huge headache for us. We needed to find a better solution.” 

School District Taps ALC Schools for Customized Student Transportation Solutions 

Jeff Wren, Regular Education Route Coordinator recalls the time when Canyons School District was looking to make a change. “We had been experiencing a lot of complaints from parents,” he said. “With this, we quickly became committed to looking for other options. One of my colleagues, Lorraine Miles, who routes transportation for our special education students, met representatives from ALC at a special education conference.” Canyons School District liked the fact that ALC had a proven track record in student transportation services, and a good reputation throughout the industry. “We looked at three different options – two local companies, and ALC, and ALC quickly become our top candidate,” continued Wren. The district reports that since they first brought ALC on board, the transportation of its general population students from Alta to and from school has been virtually seamless. “Our parents have been happy, and so have the students,” said Wardle. “Further, it is saving wear and tear on our busses, and has enabled us to free up those vehicles for other purposes.” 

District Expands Contract with ALC Schools to Include Special Needs and McKinney-Vento Students

After contracting ALC Schools to provide transportation services to students in Alta, the district found it had more special transportation needs. “We knew about ALC’s reputation for providing high-quality transportation services to students with special needs,” said Wardle. “We had one student with special needs who lived down a private road. It was too narrow for a bus and had a dead end so the bus could not turn around. Because the student was in a wheelchair, the bus had to back down the road. This was nearly impossible on trash or snow days.”

Soon enough, Canyons School District contracted ALC to provide transportation services to this student. Everything has been running smoothly ever since.

“The student is happy that they can wait in a covered area during bad weather. The parent is also very happy to know their student is taken care of by compassionate driver,” added Wardle. “It was a win-win-win situation for us.” In addition to special needs, ALC has also been assisting the district in transporting some of its McKinney-Vento students from temporary housing in the district to and from school each day. “This has worked especially well for us due to ALC’s flexibility,” said Wardle. “They have been so great about adding drivers when needed, we simply have to make the call and it’s all taken care of by their team.” ALC is currently transporting 15-20 students for Canyons School District. “That number has doubled in the last three years, and we expect it to continue to grow as the needs of our district evolve,” concluded Wardle.

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