Put yourself in the shoes of a kindergartner riding the bus for the first time. You’ve never been somewhere without mom or dad, there’s a bunch of older kids at the bus stop you’ve never met, and you’re supposed to get on the loud yellow monster to go do this “school” thing. Transportation departments have many reasons to look at new technology, namely improving safety and efficiency. But this month, I wanted to explore another reason: improving the student experience.
In K-12 transportation, we are so busy answering to parents, the public, and district administrators, that it’s sometimes easy to overlook how students might view the service we provide. Let’s see how solutions like student scan cards, onboard tablets, and parent mobile apps might affect a student’s ride to school.
- Driver Retention — Nothing helps service to your students like seasoned drivers who know their route. Because transportation departments that invest in technology have something more to offer employees, they’re on better ground to recruit and retain the current generation of drivers.
- Card Security — Student tracking cards should only use an anonymous student ID number to communicate with a reader, not personal information. This gives parents peace of mind – especially those with students known for misplacing things!
- Card Functions — Students appreciate the convenience of having one card for multiple functions, not just for student transportation. Most ridership cards today can be used for multiple purposes, such as checking out library books or buying lunch.
- Post-trip Inspections — If a tablet can be set up to prompt a driver to complete a child check at the end of a shift, and use verification methods to ensure they do, it enormously reduces the odds that you’ll face the dangerous situation of a child left behind on the vehicle.
- Substitute Drivers — With a tablet to help navigate and identify riders, a sub-driver can focus on the road and on your students, instead of reading names and directions from a clipboard.
- Forgetful Parents — Today’s parents have a lot going on, and where’s the one place all those responsibilities converge? Their smartphone. If you’re a child with busy parents, a push notification from a transportation mobile app reduces the likelihood that mom or dad will forget today was a half-day.
- The Inevitable — We work every day to prevent accidents and emergencies, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. With the right technology during a stressful situation, you can be equipped to:
- Know in real-time where the bus is located
- Be certain of which students are actually loaded
- Inform parents quickly and easily about details
- Dispatch drivers to cover and/or split the run through turn-by-turn navigation
Technology solutions for K-12 transportation not only give parents peace of mind, but their children too. Imagine again that you’re that shaky kindergartner riding the bus for the first time. Now imagine that mom hands you off with a card that’s made just for you, and when you swipe on the bus, your picture appears for the driver on a cool touchscreen. In the afternoon, after that whirlwind first day, you attempt to board the wrong bus, except the driver is notified instantly and can look up your correct assignment. Since mom receives a real-time ETA on her phone, she’s waiting at the bus stop when you come home. If only she had been so lucky growing up!
Content contributions by Tyler Technologies’ Solutions Consultant Kim Rentner.