Uni students are no longer allowed to ride the turtle vans, or any vehicle shared through the University of Illinois Carpool System.
Edit: It has come to our attention that although Uni students aren’t allowed to ride in Turtle vans, they will be able to use smaller cars through the Illinois Carpool system.
Athletic Director Tim Bicknell said he learned of the change this summer. The turtle vans are small buses which fit up to 15 people that a Uni High faculty member or coach is permitted to drive. Since May, Bicknell has had to completely overhaul his scheduled vans, and try to book First Student School Buses as quickly as possible.
Many clubs and teams use the turtle vans throughout the school year. For example, in February, when the Habitat for Humanity club travels down to Clarksdale, club sponsors drive a turtle van for 14 people. Another example would be when Uni Music teacher Rick Murphy occasionally uses the vans to drive the Madrigals to their recitals in Champaign, Savoy, and even Chicago. Sophomore Mariano Herrera thinks that now that Madrigals can’t ride the vans, they will have parents drive students in groups. Bicknell said that while the chances of an accident are small, it’s still a concern. Another concern would be the cost.
Edit: The smaller cars will be good for these kinds of situations (Madrigals, Scholastic Bowl) , but when the group gets larger than 6 or so people, they will need to rent more than one car, so they will need more drivers which could pose an issue.
According to Bicknell, Turtle vans cost around $80 to rent for the evening, and you can drive them wherever you need. For a 15-minute ride to Saint Joseph, Uni had to pay $391 to First Student to take the 40 boys on the soccer team. Turtles vans are better in terms of cost, but there are other things to consider.
Bicknell stated that it was difficult for coaches to have to drive the turtle vans. No one really wants to drive the van and be responsible for the lives of the children in the backseat. Although the chance a parent or coach gets in a car accident while driving students is small, it’s possible, and it’s easier to never have to worry about that situation. Bicknell gave the scenario of a coach losing a close game on a stormy night in January, and having to drive 14 chattering students over an hour back to their homes. A lot can be on their mind after a win or a lose, and it’s unfortunate that they also have to be focused on the road and the weather, and most importantly the lives of the children in the backseat.
At first glance the loss of the turtle vans is a heavy loss for Uni High clubs and athletics. However, when looking at them from this from administrative standpoint, the buses are safer, better for the coaches, and easier to deal with in case of an emergency.