Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Here comes the Bus! Gananda will allow parents to track buses by GPS

Beginning next month, parents with students in the Gananda school district will no longer have to wonder when their child’s bus is coming. On May 1st, the district will be debuting their “Here Comes the Bus” program, which through a free mobile app will allow parents to track the bus by GPS and be alerted upon its impending arrival.

Gananda CSD superintendent Shawn Van Scoy told the Times of Wayne County on Wednesday that the program will provide a convenience for parents, while also allowing the drivers to keep track of who’s on each bus.

According to Gananda CSD Public Relations specialist Shannon Bergstresser, they are the first district in New York State to adopt the “Here Comes the Bus” program.

“One of the things we joke about at my house is that, I live in the district and every once in awhile my wife will say ‘Are the buses going to be late?’” Van Scoy said. “She’ll call me like I’m keeping track of where the buses are – that’s not something that I’m doing.

“This will allow parents to say ‘It’s a snowy day, and I can see if the buses are running 15 minutes late.’ It’s a great informational piece for parents to have in managing their day and knowing where their kids are at.”

The district will be sending letters home to parents to explain step-by-step how to sign up for the program. Basically, parents just need to register their child at herecomesthebus.com and then download the free app. The app is available on both Apple and Android devices.

Students will be given an ID badge that will be scanned as they enter and exit their bus, which will give the district access to a real-time list of who is on each bus, when they get on and when they get off.

“The safety thing for us is that it will also allow us to start to make sure that we have an accurate attendance on the bus,” Van Scoy explained. “We know who’s on each route, but on any given day a child can stay home sick or get a ride that day – so if there’s an accident, [right now] you rely on the bus driver to know who’s on that bus.”

For students who have smartphones and don’t want to carry their ID badge every day, Van Scoy indicated that they can either take a photo of their badge and scan that or access a digital badge on the app.

As part of the program, each bus has also been equipped with a GPS screen which provides the drivers with an alternative to using paper maps. The screens will only turn on when the bus is stopped, as to not distract the drivers, but they will provide continuous audio directions. The ID scanners and the GPS screens are being leased on an annual basis from the parent company.

“It’s about $14,000 for the first year and then it moves down to $11,000,” said Natalie Melnick, the district’s business administrator. “And it’s subject to transportation aid, so the actual cost to the district will probably run about $3,000 or $4,000.”

Head bus driver Scott Remillard said that the feedback from the other drivers has been positive over the three weeks that they’ve been testing the system. He noted just a couple minor tweaks need to be made to make the system operate more efficiently.

“We’ve got some modifications to make in the Transfinder software and that’s just on my part,” Remillard said. “There are stops where the student doesn’t ride, and they never ride all year because they drive or parents pick them up, so I’ve got to go in to modify those stops otherwise it throws the GPS off because it wants the bus to stop at Joe’s house but Joe never rides – so if you don’t stop, the GPS is lost.”

According to Van Scoy, this idea was put in motion three years ago when a parent complained that a substitute bus driver had missed their house two days in a row. That parent asked Van Scoy why there weren’t any GPS systems on the buses. Van Scoy thought that was a good idea but discovered that there was a rule in place prohibiting bus drivers from having screens on their buses.

“Last year, we learned that there were going to be some changes made to that and we could start to do something different,” Van Scoy explained. “So this is kind of based originally on a reaction to a parent’s planting of a seed to us.”