NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County Schools administrators are preparing to launch a new phone app that will help parents track their child’s school bus. The Parent Portal Bus Tracking Application won’t officially go live until January 2, but administrators are doing a soft roll out this month to help people get familiar with the program.
The app lets parents track buses’ current location, so they can see exactly how close it is to their child’s bus stop. Parents can also program the app to alert them when the bus is nearby. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Wake County Schools and Pender County Schools are already using similar technology to keep parents informed.
“This is really more about improving our communication with parents, and really empowering parents. We’re giving them transportation information for their student in the palm of their hand," Assistant Superintendent Eddie Anderson said.
In addition to helping parents, the technology is expected to help transportation administrators by reducing the number of phone calls from parents asking about late school buses. According to the literature about the application, it allows districts “to securely share critical information about their child’s bus ride to and from school.” Parents program their child’s information into the app so they can see information specifically pertaining to their bus route.
During the soft roll out, the app should provide accurate information if your child is riding their regularly scheduled school bus, but it will not work if a substitute driver is covering the route. By the time it’s fully operational in January, the program should provide accurate updates regardless of who is driving the bus.
NHCS already worked with this software company in the past to provide GPS tracking for school buses. They were able to upgrade to the program that keeps parents informed for just over $10,000. The app can be downloaded for free on iTunes or the Google Play Store.
Transportation administrators also suggest parents set parameters so they are only getting alerts about their child’s bus location when it’s driving their child’s route. The app developers recommend setting the app to notify you when the bus is within a half mile of the bus stop, and only during the general window of time when the bus typically runs your child’s route. Otherwise, you may get alerts when that bus comes back to your neighborhood to pick-up middle schoolers or high schoolers, for example.
A dire shortage of bus drivers has created many school bus problems and delays this year. In some cases, buses are getting to school after classes have started. Other times, buses aren’t getting students home in the afternoon until after 5 o’clock, well over an hour after school dismissal. School officials hope that improved communication about when buses will be arriving will be helpful year round, and especially until they fill vacant bus driver positions.
Transportation administrators noted they have 19 applicants currently training to be bus drivers. If most of them pass their licensing exams, it would go a long way towards fixing the bus driver shortage.