According to a School Transportation News magazine reader survey conducted this month, more than half of the respondents said the leading concern their departments field from parents at school startup is the time of bus arrival and location of student bus stops.
Of the 104 transportation directors and supervisors that responded to the online survey that was emailed to 6,708 subscribers, 54 percent said time of bus arrival was the biggest concern voiced by parents, followed by 52 percent who worry about the location of their child’s bus stop.
For instance, Kimberly DeHaven, the director of transportation for Englewood Schools in Colorado, said via the survey that her department addresses concerns regarding the location of bus stops by first communicating with parents at back-to-school night. DeHaven added that she drives to the bus stop locations to be on-site and see what the parents are referring to when they have concerns.
Additionally, 23 percent of readers said parents are concerned about the process of registering their children for transportation service, followed by “other” concerns such as the driver shortage, crowded buses, and safety at 13 percent. Another 12 percent of parents voice that they want but can’t currently see the real-time bus location of student routes. Editor’s note: The survey allowed respondents the option to select multiple answer choices.
Tina Bandy, the assistant director of transportation for Bend-La Pine Schools in Oregon, said the top parental concern she hears is registering students for service. Her district has approximately 17,000 students, 6,000 of which are registered to ride the school bus. She noted that the district is helping to alleviate some concerns by rolling over registration. If a student was registered to ride the bus for the previous school year, they are automatically registered for the coming school year.
The district gives parents the option to register their students via an online form or submit a request using the ParentVUE portal offered by Synergy Student Information Systems. She noted that registering kids is a new process the district implemented following the return to in-person learning after COVID-19 school shutdowns.
Bend-La Pine Schools also has the option for courtesy rides, meaning that students who live within the non-transport boundaries or attend a school other than their school of residence can apply for transportation. Bandy added that acceptance is based on seat availability, access to nearest designated stop, reason for need, equity, and school administer approval.
Registering students is also a concern received by Tysen Broadwolf, the director of transportation for Cajon Valley Union School District in Southern California. But she said the top concern parents voice is not knowing the real-time location of student buses. She noted that because her district transports predominantly students with special needs, parents have a high level of interaction.
“We get a lot of questions from the parents of children with special needs that revolve around specifically knowing if their child has been picked up or has left the school in the afternoon or is on the bus or has gotten off the school bus at the school in the morning,” she said, adding that the parents want to know when the school bus is in the neighborhood.
She said general education parents also want to know when their child is on the bus. She noted that parents can track a pizza and want to be able to track a school bus.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have that technology set up yet,” she said, noting that the district is implementing Transfinder’s Stopfinder. “We are looking to launch that in the upcoming fall semester through our routing provider. They have a component of their routing program that will allow parents to see the bus in real-time and set up alerts to their own preferences which will tell them: when the bus is leaving the school or when the bus is five minutes away or a mile away however they want.”
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Broadwolf said her district also rolled out technology that allows parents to sign up for emails every time there is a permanent change to a student’s routes.
“What we want to do is make sure we’re not bugging parents every single time there’s a change made on that route,” she said, adding that alerts are sent out on Saturdays that a route change goes into effect on the coming Monday.
Still, Brodwulf said some parents remain apprehensive of the new technology. She explained a pilot project with some parents is preferred to a blanket rollout.
“We’ve kind of targeted a few individual parents to start and then gather their feedback because our district and our department is really interested on in meeting the community’s expectations and needs,” she said. “We try to always get them involved in anything that’s going on to see how we can tailor our district and our department to better serve them.”