School Bus Inc. and the Sioux Falls School District introduced a new set of apps Wednesday that officials hope will make the transportation process smoother for the district’s 9,000 bus-eligible students and bus drivers alike.
The apps come roughly one week before the start of the new school year, and on the heels of a previous school year that left students often facing busing delays and driver shortages. It’s unclear if this is in direct response to those challenges.
The app Stopfinder will be available for parents or guardians in the district, so they can track their child’s school bus in real time. The app is free, and only authorized users will have access to the student’s bus information.
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A parent could transfer app information to their child’s smartphone, if they have one, so the student can also use the app, SBI director Josh Kinard explained.
What does the Stopfinder app do?
Users of the app can customize the alerts they receive about the location of their child’s bus, including if the bus is approaching their stop, and if there is a delay in bus arrival, for example.
They can see their student’s vehicle, trip and stop information, including transfer trips and alternate site stops, on Stopfinder.
Parents and guardians of bus-eligible students will receive an email from the district Wednesday asking them to activate the free Stopfinder app.
Implementation of the new app system will roll out in a staggered manner to help the district and SBI manage call volume, troubleshooting and questions as they arise, according to a press release from the district.
New app for bus drivers, too
The other new app, Wayfinder, will work in conjunction with Stopfinder, so bus drivers can get real-time, turn-by-turn directions on their routes and keep track of students’ bus attendance.
Drivers are practicing using the new Wayfinder app this week, so SBI said that may be the cause of more yellow buses on the road in the days leading up to the first day of school Aug. 25.
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“It’s going to be a learning curve in the first two, three weeks, but it’s going to be such a stress reliever, especially with the turn-by-turn directions,” Kinard said of both apps.
The district is the first in South Dakota to utilize either of the new apps, and invested in the new system at a cost of $200,000, said Missy Braak, district transportation coordinator. The district and SBI started the conversation about the new apps about a year ago, she said.
“Because we were able to do some optimization on routes, it really did offset that cost,” Braak said, noting the cost includes the issuing of student identification cards to all students, too.
More:Sioux Falls schools encourage parents to become drivers as bus driver shortage continues
Two student ID cards will be issued to elementary school students; one that they will use if they’re bus-eligible, and one that will stay at the school. Middle and high school students will each get one ID card. IDs will be used for lunch, library checkouts, for computer use and transportation if eligible.
Braak said students’ health information, such as whether they’re diabetic, have epilepsy or have an allergy, will be made available to drivers in case of a medical incident on the bus.
Both the apps will improve communication between bus drivers, parents and schools, Braak said.
“Parents can have that peace of mind knowing where their child is at while they’re riding the bus, knowing that their child isn’t sitting out in the rain for 45 minutes waiting for a bus to come,” Braak said. “They’ll have that information right at their fingertips.”
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