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and other devices are internet-ready, Transportation Director Esther Chapman noted that a lack of power interrupts their use for virtual learning. Thus, the district again pushed back reopen- ing to Sept. 8. Similar to Coalinga-


Huron Unified School District, Port Arthur ISD purchased the tablets for use by drivers but have yet to use them, as the district continues with all-virtual classes. While, the district was utilizing buses to deliver meals to students prior to the hurricane, it plans to put the tablets to use when students return to in-person learning.

Readers who say they have yet to implement tablets on school buses.

(Out of 217 responses to a recent magazine survey.)

come about that help improve the safety and health of students now and in the future. That doesn’t mean that paper checklists for accountability are a thing of the past. Unlike using tablets

for checklists, Delano said Coalinga-Huron still maintains a paper trail. “We have paper [cleaning checklists] forms for this and will continue using paper service checks [for safety and bus

readiness measures],” she added. “We will compare if the two should be on the same page, then move toward all electronic, when [the California Highway Patrol] agrees.” “We gave [tablets] a run at the end

School bus driver have the option

John Rapp President

of using their own mobile devices as opposed to using district-owned tab- lets that must be checked out daily, but most operations STN spoke to are not going that route. “We take them off [the bus each

day],” said Chapman. “The drivers have to sign a form. As they come in and get their keys, they get their tablets. They turn them in every trip, and we put them on a charger. … And we keep them locked because we don’t want anybody breaking in the bus and taking the equipment.”

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Despite Functionality, Adoption Is Slow Integrating technology into school transportation operations is often sluggish. Simply purchasing technology and getting it ready for use can be challenging enough because of budget constraints. But there’s a newfound urgency, given the pandemic prevalence. Because tablets have multiple uses—navigation, engine diagnostics, safety checklists, accountability—new uses may

20 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2020

of last year, just a trial run, with those helping to implement it,” said Port Arthur’s Chapman. “But we haven’t actually had the opportunity to use live kids [for tracking]. We got the drivers familiar with it, how to log in, how to do pre-trip and do their inspection, and all their [engine] di- agnostics. We got them to be able to go in [and read data used in routing directions], how to go left, and right on their route. But we haven’t had the opportunity to actually do the student loading and student counts.” The tablets have many different

functions that can and will be used, now and into the future. Those who have it, are finding benefits even be- fore COVID-19. As more pupils return to school, the tablets’ usefulness will likely grow in popularity as a tool for districts to manage fleets and student transportation in challenging times. “At this point, due to COVID, it’s

hard to say,” concluded Chapman. “It works well. Due to COVID-19, we’re not using it with students right now. But we do know that it works. It’s user-friendly and drivers have no problem with it.” ●

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