Central Maine school districts turning to emerging bus scanning technology to address safety, driver shortages

READFIELD – Kelly Thompson frequented college students at Wayne Elementary School on Thursday to hand out essential cards that incorporated their name, photo and a barcode to scan when they get on the bus. 

When scanned, the card will notify the bus driver who the pupil is and where by to fall them off. Previously, the bus driver would manually enter into a machine when a pupil acquired on or off the bus. But now with the college students working with a card, officials say the course of action is a lot easier and safer.

“They are all inquiring when they can use it,” reported Thompson, the transportation director for Regional University Device 38. 

Wayne Elementary University has develop into the first university in the district to receive their vital cards. The district designs to give the key playing cards out to every single university in the district but is carrying out it on a working day-to-day basis so Thompson and her employees can give a presentation on what to do. 

Kelly Thompson, the transportation director for Maranacook Spot Universities, pins Connor, remaining, and Reese Chapman with their new bus identification badges Thursday at Wayne Elementary University. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The engineering initially was set up on the university buses to get in touch with-trace college students in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Superintendent Jay Charette. But even immediately after faculty districts stopped acquiring to call trace on community transportation, the technological innovation proved to nevertheless be incredibly helpful, largely about scholar basic safety and to support address troubles all-around the bus driver shortage. 

“With COVID-19, we genuinely desired to come across a way to know who was on the bus and for how prolonged and the protocols similar to that,” said Charette. “We really started off hunting and indicating, ‘This is COVID-19 similar, but what are the strengths to this system?’ Becoming capable to know who is on the bus, what seat they are in and the means to know when a scholar is likely to be picked up or dropped off, it is a extremely acquire-win scenario and we felt it keeps absolutely everyone concerned in the transportation approach.” 

With an iPad-like gadget mounted on the buses to access the software, faculty officers and those people in the transportation division can pull a report of who rode on a bus, when they ended up on the bus, and the length in which they were being on the bus — essential elements when pinpointing close contacts to a COVID-19 case.

Bus driver Emily Webber checks the new transportation laptop or computer Thursday at Wayne Elementary. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The technological innovation, termed Traversa and created by Plano, Texas-based Tyler Technologies, has numerous distinct capabilities in addition to monitoring pupils. With the unit, bus drivers have to do pre- and submit-route inspections on the bus and examine for servicing troubles. The product will track the velocity of drivers and will only be capable to function whilst the driver is stopped. 

It costs the Maranacook school district about $5,500 a calendar year for the subscription to Traversa, according to expenses mentioned in its spending budget for upcoming yr.

With the student’s critical card, the system can explain to who is on the bus and who is not — if a scholar is not on the bus that working day, the gadget can reroute and skip the students’ quit. If the system reroutes, it will do so only on key roads and guarantee the kid can even now leave the bus on the accurate aspect of their quit. 

With Tyler 360, a different subsection of the technological know-how that RSU 38 will roll out shortly, parents can see by a smartphone app their child designed it on the bus, obtained off the bus and when the bus is anticipated to arrive. Transportation directors can alert the mothers and fathers of information about the buses, much too. 

In accordance to CJ Vose, Tyler Technology’s director of product sales for university student transportation, 26,000 prospects in far more than 48 states use the bus routing program, which around handles 33% of learners nationally.  

Bus identification badges for Wayne Elementary students Connor, still left, and Reese Chapman are seen on Thursday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

In the Augusta area, Hallowell-based mostly Regional School Unit 2 has now been using the process. Transportation Director Katie Spear explained in the February faculty board business enterprise assembly the technological know-how was a “huge help” with COVID-19 contact-tracing, or if “for some motive someone’s child does not make it residence.” 

The Maine Department of Education and learning did not quickly answer for opinions this past week with regards to statewide trends with bus routing technological innovation.  

When talks of installing the technology on the college buses 1st became a matter back in September at RSU 38’s school board assembly, board member Dane Wing lifted fears above protection and no matter if or not anyone could hack into the process, or if parent’s entry to the bus route could be worrisome. Thompson clarified at the conference that the smartphone application does not permit mom and dad to see the route the bus is on, but rather the time when their pupil will get there at their distinct cease.

Tyler Technology’s media relation’s professional, Jennifer Kepler, elaborated on the security of the technological know-how, indicating all knowledge coming in and out of the Tyler knowledge centers are monitored and recorded.

“Tyler’s Scholar Transportation resolution is furnished as a computer software-as-a-assistance alternative, which means a district does not want to personal, update or safeguard pc hardware on-web site,” she reported. “Instead, Tyler hosts client’s knowledge inside of its knowledge centers. … All student data is encrypted in their software program answers and Tyler Travel tablets.”

Vose pointed out the engineering can be helpful to battle the bus driver scarcity, as nicely, since the routes can be modified in genuine time, based on who is on the bus. RSU 38 has completed somewhat nicely compared to other districts about the bus driver scarcity, but there has been instances wherever routes have experienced to improve, or a bus did not operate.

“It can help in getting productive with routes,” Vose mentioned. “There might not be the similar sum of drivers (in a district), or fewer buses, but the same amount of small children. It aids to be a lot more effective with routes, with providing facts to motorists that might be new, or if they may not have motorists acquainted with the student’s fall off spots.”  

Bus driver Emily Webber teaches Wayne Elementary college students about bus safety on Thursday. The Maranacook Region Schools are equipping students with identification to swipe on their buses. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Thompson reported the youngsters have acclimated nicely to using the important cards to scan onto the bus and had been engaged on Thursday when they acquired the cards.

Even though the children have acclimated perfectly to the technological know-how, Thompson stated she has skilled her staff members “in tiny itty techniques,” so they are capable to acquire it on at a pace, alternatively than all at when. She gave the case in point of logging on the unit 1 day, then modifying the bus route the following working day as some of her lessons. 

“They have been hesitant because it’s so new and very distinct, but they have verified to be the persons they are, which is rather darn remarkable and they have embraced it,” Thompson explained of her motorists. “… They recognized the ‘why,’ what the ‘why’ was, and that we had to get in for the reason that of the ‘why,’ but they have all performed a excellent occupation on being open minded.” 

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