A free webinar provided detail on the Here Comes The Bus (HCTB) app’s features that are being leveraged to provide community food delivery services and parent peace of mind during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Here Comes The Bus has been around since 2015 and boasts over 2 million users. The newest version of the app was designed to provide real-time tracking and parent notifications for school bus routes that are not part of normal home-to-school planning, said Bryan Mitchell, head of marketing for app developer Synovia Solutions. Synovia’s Head of Training Eddie Sutton confirmed that the app works with routing software but that none is needed.
Micole Sander, head of implementation for Here Comes The Bus, shared that the app is being used by districts that have implemented a meal delivery program, while school campuses are closed because of the coronavirus.
One such district is Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS) in North Carolina, which uses 339 buses to transport 34,000 student riders. Assistant Director of Transportation Edna Anderson reported that since the district started using HCTB three years ago, parents have been pleased with the app’s functionality and are not calling into the transportation office as often. This is especially helpful when routes have to be adjusted or combined because of a lack of drivers, she added.
Anderson said that the app has continued to prove helpful as district buses travel 600 miles a day to deliver cafeteria-prepared meals three days a week.
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“As a district, we still want to do all we can for our children and parents to make it less stressful in this unstable time,” Anderson explained. “The support that we’re receiving from Synovia—with getting our parents the way to track the school buses and deliver the food at different locations—has been awesome.”
App setup begins with a student list, which can include other children, such as younger siblings who do not attend the school. Stops, like food delivery stations, can then be added for each student. The bus is then tracked on its route and parents are notified when their child’s bus nears its assigned stop. Parents can determine when they want to be notified, based on the bus entering a certain radius.
The HCTB system can also be used in conjunction with student ID cards.
WS/FCS is a technologically-forward district. It uses Edulog’s routing software and has mobile data terminals (MDTs) installed on the buses. Drivers use the MDTs to designate the route they are running that day so parents can follow along.
Messages can also be sent through the platform to school bus drivers, a feature that WS/FCS frequently uses, Anderson said. Sutton added that parents can also be messaged through the app to notify them of important pieces of news like a bus breakdown.
Like many school districts, WS/FCS is communicating with state officials to determine the best plan on how to resume transportation when school starts back up. Anderson stated that split schedules, eLearning and physical distancing may be in effect. Routes may need to be redone, but she noted that she has confidence in her experienced routers. She added that Synovia will work closely with the district if there’s any way it can assist with school startup efforts.