A Florida school district, the 32nd-largest in the United States, went all in to improve transportation department efficiency by implementing the busHive trip management software.
The School District of Lee County is the ninth-largest district in Florida, with 89 schools and 90,000 students. Denise Paz, the district’s transportation supervisor of operations and data systems, oversees a transportation operation involving 912 buses and 656 drivers. Consequently, she looks to improve efficiency whenever possible.
That goal was greatly aided in 2018 when Lee County Schools decided to implement busHive as its field and athletic trip management system.
It was a match gloriously made at the STN EXPO, in fact. Paz explained that the district’s transportation supervisor at the time had spoken to busHive president and CEO Michael Hinckley at the Trade Show in Reno, Nevada. After a demo that left the supervisor thoroughly impressed, the busHive system was added into the budget.
Support Specialist Karen Toomey explained that the field trip process in use at Lee County Schools at the time was manual and paper-based. The information had to be handwritten into multi-page forms with unique numbers, then turned in to one of the district’s three-zone support specialists who entered it manually into the old software. The specialist also had to keep track of driver assignments and substitutions on paper.
“We … wanted to go electronic so schools could submit paperwork,” Paz stated.
That summer came the transition period.
All the assistant principals and athletic directors, as well as their secretaries, went through a week-long training conducted by busHive’s Michael Hinckley as he demonstrated how trips could be submitted and how transportation staff could approve and operate the system.
That year, the district ran all its summer school trips through busHive.
Elementary school staff were trained via phone or email with materials Hinckley had used for the initial training sessions he’d done that summer. Toomey said that it was a bit of a learning curve, but that school staff now agree that busHive is an easier system than the previous manual one.
“The more you learn on it, the easier it gets,” she explained.
“We never went back to the old system,” Paz related.
By the start of the 2019-2020 school year, busHive was live district-wide.
One of the benefits, Paz pointed out, is that teachers and athletic directors must now abide by a 2-week lead time request rule, thus avoiding short-notice requests that put more pressure on the transportation department.
Additionally, previous to the busHive implementation, the paper request forms had to be hand-delivered to the transportation department. Toomey explained that it now takes a lot less time to get trips set up and that fewer trips are missed.
“I personally love [busHive], it makes my job easier,” she said.
Both Paz and Toomey reported that the change has streamlined and brought more order to the trip request process used by teachers and athletic directors, as well as the path of approval. Requests must be approved by the principal before they go on to the transportation department. The support specialists then work on assigning school buses to trips.
Drivers are assigned to trips manually, mainly because there is so much guidance in staff contracts that any automated programming would have to be very specific. Support specialists use Google Drive spreadsheets to track which drivers are up for which trips, as well as any who have declined or canceled one. Reports with assignment information can also be pulled from busHive.
Paz related that the district is working on a way to integrate busHive reports with the district’s billing system for a smoother billing process. She is also looking at implementing Mobile Data Terminals.
If the transportation team needs something specific, such as a change to a report or the way a screen displays, they need only to contact the busHive team for a speedy solution.
“Everything we’ve requested so far, they’ve complied,” Paz said.
Toomey agreed that the busHive team helpfully and quickly responds to any questions, resulting in a good partnership.
Field trips and athletic trips are limited this year due to COVID-19, Paz noted. For sports trips such as football, soccer and basketball, 20 students are put on each bus so social distancing can be adhered to. There is no band or cheer squad, only players & coaches.