Poplar Bluff School District piloting new bus tracking app

school bus (Source: Pexels/Mackenzie Ryder)
school bus (Source: Pexels/Mackenzie Ryder)

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (KBSI) – The Poplar Bluff School District is piloting its new bus tracking app at the Early Childhood and Kindergarten centers.

The app is called Here Comes The Bus.

There are plans to roll out the parent access tool district-wide for the 2023/24 school year.

“This is just a better way to communicate with our parents so they have a sense of security knowing their son or daughter is on the bus and when they get to school,” said Jon McKinney, director of the Poplar Bluff R-I Transportation Department. “On our end, it should cut down on phone calls, because parents should literally be able to look on their phone and see when and where their child stepped on the bus.”

Parents and guardians of bus riders will soon receive letters in the mail providing instructions for downloading the app or visiting the website, then entering the unique student identification number supplied, and setting the preferred radius for receiving communication via text or email.

Students will scan their district-issued ID when entering and exiting the bus. Drivers will have access to a touchscreen with a name-based ridership module for the lower grade levels. The geofence can be set between 750 feet and two miles to eliminate wait times at bus stops. Real-time alerts will automatically be sent to caregivers when students have arrived at school.

The locator has the capacity to refresh every 15 seconds using a single primary address drawn from the district’s student information system, according to the Poplar Bluff R-I School District.

Families of multiple children riding different buses can be tracked simultaneously. People can only sign up for push notifications if they are on the student’s emergency contact list.

The Board of Education approved the acquisition of the fleet management system before McKinney’s arrival. The board selected Synovia Solutions CalAmp as the low bidder using startup dollars from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

According to the proposal, the GPS-based transportation management software supports more of the top 25 largest school transportation systems in the United States than other vendors.

The app was launched in 2014. It interfaces with Transfinder which is the district’s routing system that has been utilized for several years and offers other administrative features.

“Basically we are moving to a time where school buses will have the same navigation system available in cars or Google Maps on your phone, which greatly helps new drivers and substitute drivers not as familiar with the routes,” McKinney said. “Technology is pushing into this industry, making everything accessible, from arrival time to departure time of buses and the ability to live track them, hopefully making our routes more efficient, safer and consistent.”

The plan is to launch Here Comes The Bus across the entire school system next academic year, after the soft rollout is completed this spring in order to troubleshoot.

McKinney says so far the technology has surpassed their expectations.

He anticipates that the district’s approximately 2,200 riders on more than 200 bus routes built into the database will be fairly accurate in advance of the first day of school.

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