Farmington Municipal Schools in New Mexico was able to completely transform their transportation processes by implementing the App-Garden cloud-based solution. The district is composed of 19 award-winning schools, including one pre-school academy, 10 elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools.
Until recently, Farmington relied on a mostly manual approach to managing transportation routing, field trip planning and school bus maintenance. While the Farmington team did start with a legacy software application, Billy Huish, Farmington’s director of transportation, remembers that it simply wasn’t getting the job done.
“While it automated some efforts, it was still a pain,” said Huish. “Drivers had to manually build their routes by entering bus stops and renumbering them. The process took too long, especially since some drivers had a hard time using the software.”
Huish also reports that the same manual efforts were needed to plan field trips, as well as to initiate work orders and track inventory related to bus maintenance.
Huish was introduced to the App-Garden at an industry tradeshow. An early demo of the company’s Travel Tracker Routing, Travel Tracker Field Trips and Facility Tracker solutions immediately resonated with the entire Farmington team.
“Within a few minutes of the first demo, I put the phone on mute and said, ‘Wow.’ Everything they were showing us was exactly what we needed. I had never seen anything like it in my 40 years in school transportation,” Huish related.
Exceeding Implementation Expectations
Farmington chose the Travel Tracker Routing and Field Trips as well as the Facility Tracker solutions and proceeded with an aggressive implementation goal. Again, App-Garden exceeded expectations every step of the way.
“I had never seen anything like it in my 40 years in school transportation.”
-Billy Huish, Director of Transportation, Farmington Municipal Schools
“The implementation team was a joy to work with,” said Huish. “They understood our request for such an aggressive go-live target date—so we could use the summer months to prepare for the school year ahead—and committed to helping us hit it.”
“From the time we started the onboarding process to the time we went live, the whole process just couldn’t have been better,” Huish explained. “If we ever had a question or a request, the App-Garden services team always got back to us within an hour or less. They even developed new features in the software to support our specific needs. With App-Garden, I never felt like I was a customer; I felt like I was part of the team.”
Huish reported that Farmington’s training experience was the same.
“The App-Garden team delivered training and answered our questions in innovative ways that worked for us,” he explained. “We valued their approach to relationship building and developing a true partnership, which is something I look for in any vendor I work with, whether I’m buying tires or software.”
Travel Tracker: Innovative Transportation Solutions
Now, with the Travel Tracker application, Farmington has been able to overcome the challenges it once faced. For example, transportation staff can go into the software to look up bus stops, compare them to home addresses, and find the closest bus to consolidate routes. This is a significant advantage for a school like Farmington that provides transportation services to geographically remote families, often even without street addresses.
“Our routes include Navajo Nation, which is very rural and doesn’t use actual addresses,” said Huish. “Travel Tracker offers a pin drop function, so our drivers can simply drop a pin on a house as far as 60 miles away to plan their routes. We couldn’t have done this using our past approach.”
Farmington was also able to use Travel Tracker to take a closer look at school bus stops and routes for special needs students. Where the district initially thought it had the ideal schedule, it then realized it could consolidate routes and minimize the amount of time these children had to be on the bus—a better way to provide an experience similar to their peers.
Travel Tracker has also enabled Farmington to provide real-time communication to families in the district. Bus drivers can now relay updated information such as delays, so parents know exactly where their child is and when they will be home. This is much more effective than email or other messaging apps that had to be sent from the school.
Additionally, any user can add details or reminders for a field trip or other outing through the Travel Tracker Field Trips solution. Now Farmington’s food services love the fact that if a group is going out, the request for sack lunches is now automated. Nothing is overlooked, and no one has to call the Central Kitchen; the whole process ensures everyone in the entire process is notified and understands what is needed.
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Facility Tracker: Improved Maintenance and Inventory Processes
Huish also reports that his team was able to use the Facility Tracker solution in an innovative way: instead of using it for facility maintenance, they now use it to initiate work orders and manage inventory for their fleet of buses.
“We are ready to go to our first inventory audit using the App-Garden solutions,” he said. “I’m excited to go through the process this time, since I know we won’t have any issues. It’s all in Facility Tracker and we can easily give the auditors the information they need.”
Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis
Farmington also used the App-Garden solution in an innovative way to overcome various challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Attend this webinar covering new features!)
“Clearly, we had to follow the guidelines related to social distancing and how many kids we could have on a bus at one time,” Huish said. “But we also realized that children in the same family could sit together, which would increase our number of kids per bus and help us deliver better service to families.
In a matter of minutes, a team member was able to create a custom report that showed that in a particular case, there were 19 siblings on a bus that came from 13 families.
“It was just that easy and we were able to pull the report without any technical knowledge. We could not have done this in the past,” Huish shared.
More Than A Partner
When asked to describe the biggest differentiator App-Garden offers, Huish has a hard time picking one.
“App-Garden offers the right products and services at a price you just can’t beat. But our experience with them has grown to the point where we don’t see App-Garden as a vendor—we now think of them as family. I’ve never had such an experience with any other company,” he said.