especially useful tool for drivers to use as a checklist before and after each trip, a means of accounting for which stu- dents are on the bus, and an aid for contact tracing in the event a student or transportation staff contract the virus. In fact, the latter already happened by Sept. 2, just nine days into the new school year, when Dubuque reported its first student COVID-19 case, media reports confirmed. “Our Tyler Drive solution increases the functionality of

traditional student ridership,” said Ted Thien, vice president and general manager of the Tyler Technologies transporta- tion solutions group. “For example, if a student boards the bus and they are getting on the wrong vehicle or off at the wrong stop, Tyler Drive will notify the driver. This is a game changer for substitute drivers. They are more comfortable knowing they have Tyler Drive to help them, just like the dispatcher was riding next to them. If a student forgets their ridership card, for example, they can still be account- ed for on Tyler Drive. This has proven to be very valuable as we help districts ramp up for contact tracing on buses.”

Staying Prepared with Tablets Thien added that Tyler Drive keeps the integrity of the bus stop. “What this means is if a driver skips a stop and needs help getting back to a stop,” he shared. “The Tyler Drive unit will direct them to the safest way, not neces- sarily the quickest way, and maintain the integrity of right side only if this is a requirement on how the bus ap- proaches. This is a critical feature for K-12 transportation.” Unlike Dubuque, many schools are virtual for now—

not hybrid and not in-person at all. In anticipation of bus transportation eventually returning, those who invested in tablets are upbeat about their usefulness in the future. The data that driver tablets gather will be useful to build confidence, in an era of COVID-19, where awareness and control is prioritized. “Our tablets are able to do directions, but our focus

School bus driver Luis Oliva operates a tablet for Coalinga-Huron Unified School District in California.

Such an environment can use all the available help

and any technology tools that can expedite the daunting task of reopening schools. Tablets are one such tool that may be able to assist, if not right away, whenever student transportation regains its full momentum. Still, tablet acceptance has yet to take off nationwide. The initial hardware cost and ongoing monthly data chargers are the biggest culprits. Only 15 percent of over 200 magazine readers said this summer that they currently use tablets on the school buses. But another survey for last month’s Bus Technology Summit indi- cated nearly 30 percent of over 800 readers said they forecast purchasing tablets over the coming year. With COVID-19 processes in place, tablets may be an

on tablets will be using the app so students and parents know where the bus is and when it will be arriving at stops, or when the bus arrives at the school after athletic trips, field trips, academic events trips, or after school,” explained Katie Delano, director of transportation services at Coalinga-Huron Unified School District, located in cen- tral California. The area is known for its agriculture, oil, cannabis and prisons. “Students will scan their ID’s so we know when they are on and off. We have a tremendous number of rural stops as we cover four counties in our runs, so it will be helpful for when we return to trans- porting students. Right now, we are 100-percent online learning, and no meal runs currently. Students were sup- plied with internet hotspots so bus Wi-Fi is not needed.” Port Arthur Independent School District (ISD) in Texas.

initially delayed its opening to Aug. 31, due to COVID-19 concerns. Then came Hurricane Laura, which hit the county hard, knocking out power to much of the area, including school facilities. Though the tablets, computers 19

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