Imagine waiting in your driveway very early in the morning for the big yellow school bus to round the corner to take your child to school. Your child is ready and you need to get to work. You wait. Time passes and you wait some more. Eventually, you realize the bus isn't coming, so you load your student in the car, race them to school and pray you're not late for your job.
That's a scenario of the past at Liberty-Eylau Independent School District, as they are launching a new app this week for parents to see exactly where their child's bus is. The app will also give them the approximate time the bus will arrive at the nearest bus stop so they can limit the amount of time they wait. Once the child is on the bus, parents will also be able to track the route and make sure they got to school, eliminating that worry.
"The primary reason is for parents to track and know where their kids are," said Matt Fry, district spokesman. "So many times, we may get a call 'Hey has the bus passed my house yet? Is it running late today?' Now parents can easily watch and see."
In April, the district approved the purchase of the SafeStop program, which produces the app, and Samsara, the software the district uses to communicate with the GPS and monitoring devices on the buses. Through Samsara, district officials can get real-time data on several different things about the bus, including fuel level, engine status, tire pressure and even the temperature inside the bus. In addition, if the bus being operated recklessly or at a high rate of speed, the software will generate an email to the transportation department for review.
A system bonus—it offers free wi-fi.
"That wasn't the primary intent of it. it's just something that came with it and it doesn't cost anything extra to turn it on," Fry said, adding that it would be simple for students to access it. "Our technology department set it up where it's on the same SSID as the school. Any of their devices that they are using at school, when they get on the bus, it automatically hooks up. If they need to check email, turn something in, they can do that."
Through the app, parents can either enter their address to see which bus to track, or they can enter the bus number. Several options are available to customize the app, including adding more than one bus stop and messaging.
L-E's board of trustees approved the purchase of the two software systems last spring and they were installed in May by students in the high school's auto technology department.
Kyle Krobot, a teacher at L-EHS, has been using the app since school started to track the bus for his son, who is in first grade this year.
He said the app is extremely easy to use and it allows him to gauge the appropriate time for them to leave the house to be at the bus stop.
"There used to be point in time where I had to take my little boy outside and we'd be waiting and waiting for the bus to get there, sometimes 30 minutes or so if they got delayed at another stop," he said. "Now, its extremely convenient. When we see it getting close to the house, that's when we head outside. There's no guessing because the GPS is exact on the bus."
Wednesday, the district sent parent user guides home with students to not only announce the new system, but for them to learn how to register for the service. A video with additional details on how the system works can be viewed on the district website, www.leisd.net.