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4Seasons helps transport students with special needs

It’s refreshing and encouraging to learn of individuals who have built up companies with no grants or outside assistance that are thriving and employing a good number of Calgarians.

Brooke Garcia is a terrific example, building up her 4Seasons Transportation company — which employs 280 office staff and drivers — as a firm focused entirely on assisting students with special needs.

Garcia attended Mount Royal University and Lethbridge College. After marriage, she became a stay-at-home mom but was soon itching to be involved outside the house.

Eight years ago she learned of 4Seasons and decided driving children with special needs would be rewarding. After earning her Class 4 commercial licence she was soon on the road, and then started hanging around the office and helping with administration.

At that time the company had eight employees. Garcia saw the potential for growth and became involved in all aspects of running the office — including looking after the fleet of buses, organizing the drivers, tracking, keeping the books and writing company cheques by hand. Five years later she became a partner of the bus transportation company and began aggressively marketing its focus on driving students with complex needs to their schools.

It was awarded a contract by Rocky View Schools and was later approached by the Calgary Board of Education.

Today, Garcia’s drivers continue to serve Rocky View as well as Cochrane, Airdrie and Chestermere, and they are the prime contract drivers for many of the CBE routes.

Growth meant the need to move into larger premises, and today 4Seasons Transportation is housed in a 20,000-square-foot building.

Besides the staff who handle the daily complex logistics and tracking procedures, the building is used as a training centre for new drivers and includes a maintenance shop for its 150 Short Type A buses that must be in top condition to carry about 1,000 people each weekday.

Using fleet tracking software, 4Seasons knows where every vehicle is in live time and even knows the speed they travel at. Drivers park their buses at home and, during cold weather, mechanics at the Calgary shop are able to tell if a battery needs a boost and charge it before drivers leave for their routes.

Training is key to the success of continuing to serve its clients so well. In addition to gaining the necessary driving licence, each new recruit has to take a company developed program of specialized training to transfer children with special needs.

On-time arrivals are the norm — children arrive at school calm and ready to learn, and drivers are equipped to anticipate and successfully manage challenges that may arise during transport.

They serve the wheelchair community, children with a broad spectrum of physical and mental disabilities, and children sick or injured who temporarily require alternative transport.

Every school day, 50 buses take children to and from specialized programs, but most city schools have integrated programs for special-needs children.

Garcia is now owner and president of the company, and has become such a respected authority on specialized transportation needs she is in demand as a speaker at industry forums. She was recently in Brussels to address the All World Summit for Accessible Tourism, has been invited to many cities across North America and has accepted an invitation to outline her special-needs transportation solutions to the 2019 National School Transportation Association conference in Austin, Texas.

Earlier this week, she received local recognition in being awarded the City of Calgary Accessible Transportation Award.

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