As much as tracking apps provide customer service to parents, they also streamline the jobs and responsibilities of transportation staff.

“I think the parents appreciate the

app most in inclement weather,” said Deb Mason, transportation director for Community Unit School District 300 in Algonquin, Illinois. “No one likes to have students standing out in bad weather waiting for the bus.” Mason noted that because things

can happen beyond anyone’s control that delay a bus, being able to look up a route on an app to know the bus is running late is a great benefit to everyone. That option has been widely appreciated, she acknowledged. “The parents like the convenience

of the app and being able to see where their child’s bus is at, both in the morn- ing and the afternoon,” Mason said. For those who are charged with man- aging school transportation, the apps can potentially reduce the headache factor. “We have seen phone calls cut to a minimum. We’re not getting those phone calls asking, ‘Where is the bus?’” noted Jeff Hunter, transportation coor- dinator for Waterbury Public Schools in Connecticut. “It’s a very powerful tool during inclement weather, accidents, late arrivals and more,” he found. Despite the advantages, using these

apps is not without challenges. One is that after parents become accustomed to the service, the easy access to infor-

mation can subject transportation staff to second-guessing. “The part we didn’t anticipate is when

the path of the route is analyzed, based on the direction parents see the bus tak- ing,” Mason said. “When you are not part of the routing process, you’re not aware of all the safety components taken into consideration during this process.” Gaining widespread adoption may

pose its own challenges. Riveros report- ed spending substantial time and effort into getting parents signed up and using the app. “We track our efforts on a scoreboard

and also track how many students are being tracked each week,” she stressed. Her team has made presentations

at school events, promoted the app through traditional and social media, and encouraged schools to take inno- vative steps to increase numbers. “The schools have done a lot of fun things to help us,” she explained. “One school secretary knitted a blanket with the school’s mascot. And then she gave raffle tickets to win the blanket for every person who signed up for the app.” Even with such efforts, more work

remains. As of this report and at over 18 weeks after district-wide rollout, only 16 percent of Wichita bus riders were being tracked, Riveros reported.

26% Readers who said their

operation currently offers a tracking app to parents

(Based on 171 respondents to an STN survey sent in November 2019.) 33


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