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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, December 07, 2016 10:03 am

App will allow SACS buses to be tracked

Ashley Sloboda | The Journal Gazette

Southwest Allen County Schools parents could soon have a way to track their children’s bus.

With the "Here Comes the Bus" app, parents can see where the bus is and how close it is to their home, Director of Transportation Steve Lake told the school board Tuesday, adding that users can set up customized alerts.

"We’re pretty excited about it," he said.

App users may also see whether the bus has passed a certain bus stop and whether it has arrived at its intended school, Lake said. He said the app, which is being tested with help from parents, could be available for district families this school year.

The app is powered by Synovia Solutions, which provides transportation management software to the district.

As Lake described what he can monitor with Synovia – including excessive speed and railroad crossing procedures – board members likened it to Big Brother.

"I guess it is Big Brother watching, the more I talk about it," Lake said.

But board members didn’t necessarily view that negatively. Vice President Mark Gilpin, for example, alluded to news stories involving school buses and said Lake is being proactive "by being Big Brother."

Lake, a longtime district employee who assumed his current role in 2016, said he wasn’t making changes in transportation for the sake of it.

"It’s about the safety of our kids," he said.

The district should have a conversation about using a student tracker system that shows when and where students board and exit a bus, he added.

Efficiency also is a concern within transportation, Lake said. With dozens of buses in the district’s fleet, he said, excessive idling is an issue to address. He said about one gallon of fuel is lost per hour.

"It adds up in a hurry," Lake said.

He said he has been using coupons for free Chick-fil-A sandwiches to reward drivers for saving fuel.

"It’s a start," he said.

asloboda@jg.net