New app keeps track of school buses

NEWPORT NEWS --If you're always scrambling to get your kids out the door in time to catch the school bus, well, there's an app for that!

This week Newport News Public Schools adopted a pilot program called Here Comes the Bus, developed by Synovia Solutions. It's a website and mobile device app that allows you to track your child's school bus in real time. Five schools including Hilton Elementary School, Booker T. Washington Middle School, Denbigh Early Childhood Center, Watkins Early Childhood Center and Woodside High School are participating in the testing phase.

Jillian Manning is a mother of three children. For her, mornings are hectic, and getting the kids dressed and out the door can be a struggle, and a big pain if they miss the bus.

"They're going to be late or they're going to miss school. My oldest son actually missed the bus for the first time this week. If I had known it was coming down the street I would've happily kicked him out of the house," she said.

NNPS hopes the program will help cut down on missed school time, tardiness and ease the minds of worried parents.

"The things that you can fear as a mother, from strangers picking your child up at the bus stop, or them not making it to their destination," Manning said.

Here Comes the Bus links your smartphone, tablet or computer to the GPS technology on your child's school bus. It allows you to see the location of your child's bus both before and after school, and confirm that the bus has arrived at the bus stop and at school. You can also receive push notifications or an email message when the bus is nearby.

"We actually had a parent this morning who actually told the driver, 'hey I have this on my phone. I watched as you came up to the bus stop,'" NNPS Transportation Director Shay Coates said.

"We track our pizza through an app on our phone, I mean why not track something as precious as our children," Manning said.

Last year, Manning's son Hunter was involved in a school bus accident.

"For 20 or 30 minutes there I had no idea where the bus was. An app like this would have taken some of the guess work out of it for me and given me peace of mind," she said.

Coates says it will not only give parents peace of mind, but a big break for the transportation office. He says the school division receives more than 100 phone calls a day from worried parents. During the first week of school, it's more than 2,400 calls a day.

"We get a lot of calls during the day and afternoon. Where is the bus? So it will definitely cut down on the volume of calls we receive," he said.

The website version of the program is completely free. The app version will remain free for participating schools until June 16th. After that, there may be a subscription fee. Coates says he will review the results at the end of the pilot program and present his findings to the Superintendent and the School Board. If the response is positive, he may ask the School Board to cover the costs.


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