Most Innovative App award from attendees of the Bus Technology Summit presented by School Transporta- tion News. “That’s especially important because we don’t have a direct line to the parents. Our customers are the schools, but the end user is parents,” Papali said, adding that she also kept an open mind when it came to pas- senger feedback. “My son thinks I’m working on this cool thing. He says,

‘My mom is trying to get me back to school safely.’ That’s super exciting to hear from your child,” she relayed. The worst thing a tracking app can be is inaccurate. It only

takes a minute to miss the bus, sending working parents on an unappreciated detour to get their kids to school on time. Other issues parents report facing involve the lim-

itations between split households and private schools. Parents said they also want to be able to add and remove users with the ease of asking grandma to babysit. For school districts with public, private and charter school options, parents want the app to be used consistently among schools. “I only have one problem so far, and that is because

you can only use it for Strongsville schools students,” explained Scott Clayton, whose 6-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter ride Strongsville City Schools buses southwest of Cleveland. The district provides parents with

the Here Comes The Bus app from Synovia/CalAmp. “This one would be more valuable to me, because he is

only 6-years-old and we obviously worry more for him than our 13-year-old who has a cell phone,” Clayton continued. While many parents give apps two thumbs up, the technology also cuts down work for dispatchers. “It’s been a game changer. It cut down the calls to our

dispatch team,” said Kelly Shahan, the transportation manager for Red Clay Consolidated School District. In a normal school year, she said the Wilmington, Delaware, district moves 13,000 students on 142 buses along 426 routes. With COVID-19 restrictions, only 23 children can ride each bus, but transportation staff have been able to use the bus tracking data to configure new routes. “In the past, with the driver shortages, routes would change all the time, or a driver would have to come back around twice, and I felt so bad when kids were left stand- ing in the rain,” Shahan added. “Now parents can see when the bus is coming, then send their kids out.” When asked about areas where the technology can

improve, Shahan said Tripspark continues to incorporate district feedback into the product design. “Every time I come up with something, I email TripSpark and they work on an upgrade. They say we’re going to get our team on it because chances are if you need it, others need it, too.” ●


16 School Transportation News • JANUARY 2021

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