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HopSkipDrive provided the solution when Jerene Petersen was struggling to find rides for foster youth who had been placed in homes far from their regular schools.
At the time, she was the deputy executive director for the Colorado Department of Human Services. She knew that getting students back to their home schools would increase their chances of graduating high school and building stable lives. It’s also required by federal law — but drivers were hard to find.
HopSkipDrive — a rideshare service similar to Uber or Lyft that specializes in transporting children — now contracts with more than a dozen Colorado school districts, as well as human services agencies, to provide rides for vulnerable children: homeless youth, those in foster care, and students with disabilities whose specialized education plans include transportation.
But as a rideshare company, HopSkipDrive hasn’t been regulated like other companies that also provide rides for at-risk students. Those companies have to follow Colorado Department of Education rules that ensure drivers have certain training and vehicles meet safety requirements.
Instead, HopSkipDrive has been regulated like other rideshare companies by the state Public Utilities Commission.
That was set to change this summer. In response to a complaint from a competitor, the PUC ruled that it shouldn’t regulate HopSkipDrive when the company is doing work for school districts. The Colorado Department of Education is prepared to take over regulating HopSkipDrive’s school services.
A bill making its way through the Colorado General Assembly would prevent the education department from assuming oversight and keep regulating HopSkipDrive similar to Uber and Lyft.