Waterford schools testing app to cut bus wait times in cold weather

Pilot program underway in Waterford Township
Posted at 5:32 AM, Oct 22, 2018

Parents in Waterford Township will have less concern about kids waiting for buses at cold bus stops this winter. As coats, winter hats and gloves become the “must have” items at school bus stops the District is helping parents and students cut down on the time they need to wait for the school bus at the corner.

This year, Waterford School District is rolling out a pilot program of a phone app called “SafeStop.” The idea is to allow parents to keep track of their child’s school bus as they make their way along daily routes. With the SafeStop App, parents and students alike will be able to see the exact location of the bus and when it’s expected to arrive at their stop.

“Allows them to not only track their children’s bus, but allows us more flexibility with our communication to them,” said James Beaver, the director of operations for Waterford’s transportation and security.

The app, once downloaded, allows parents to get push alerts and notifications when the District deems in necessary. Instead of mass messages sent to the entire student population, the bus garage can direct important messages to a specific route.

What makes it unique for parents is that it also updates every 30 seconds to show where a bus is located. That ensures a student doesn’t spend more time than is necessary out in the cold — or if the district has to re-route drivers due to shortages they’ve seen in the past.

“This is going to allow them to know when the bus is in their neighborhood and minimize the time they’re waiting at that spot.”

Beaver stressed that bus drivers shouldn't be waiting for students to arrive at the bus stop, but the hope is to eliminate long periods of waiting for students.

Within the first week of launching, the district saw roughly 200 families download the app and register. In back-to-back weeks since, they’ve watched another 100 sign up.

It’s stressed that this is considered a safe way for parents to track their child’s bus. Parents are only given access to their child’s bus, and they have to use their student’s ID to log into a parent portal through the District’s website. Login information can be shared between the student, parents and guardians but the school is limiting how many people can gain access to the system to ensure the information isn’t shared with people who shouldn’t be able to see where school buses are located.

Parents can obtain their student’s ID through the parental portal, located under the Demographics Module listed as “Local ID.”

The SafeStop app is available in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. There is also a version of the app online for use on tablets and traditional computers located here.