The West Geauga Board of Education approved a $27,840 contract for new bus routing software during a regular meeting Monday.
Director of Technology and Operations Sean Whelan explained in a presentation to the board that Transfinder, the new bus routing software, has higher accuracy with students’ home placement on maps, more communication capabilities and better route efficiency compared to the district’s current software TripSpark Technologies.
“With TripSpark, we have approximate maps of our district that we place students on in order to make bus routes,” Mr. Whelan said, noting that the placements are not always accurate. He explained that Transfinder already has the homes placed on the maps of students through GPS location and that this would speed up the routing process for the buses and increase accuracy when locating where to pick up students.
Mr. Whelan explained that the new software would also do things that the district’s current software does not do in terms of communication and efficiency.
“We can have reports sent to all of our staff at buildings daily. These daily reports that can be emailed with highlights of driver and bus change schedules that are made that morning. So that way they’re aware of any differences right away when the buses arrive,” he said. “Staff can also log directly into the system with their own logins. They’re going to be able to see maps with planned trips and maps where the bus is scheduled to be at any given time because we have those GPS locations.”
He added that the software can pull up student information to indicate bus assignments for those students to show which students ride certain buses in the morning or afternoon or even specific days of the week.
“This is also useful for communication with our parents,” Mr. Whelan said. He explained that if parents need to know where their student is during bussing, the parent can call the school building and staff members can pull up the information without needing to contact the schools’ transportations garage. “They can answer that question right away from a huge screen right in front of them. Common information across the district with a button push,” he said.
Another benefit to switching to the new routing software, Mr. Whelan said, is that the new software can give the district routing analyses, which includes color coding to show the best routes for bus drivers. “We can notice things like overlaps where there’s a potential to adjust routes for efficiency because of the fact that we have buses that are crossing those areas,” he said.
He added that the software’s connection to Infinite Campus, a student information and learning management system, allows immediate access to information for new students and updates potential routes. He said this would be the same even for students who leave the school district.
As for the potential territory transfer with Newbury Local School District, Mr. Whelan said the Transfinder software would be helpful in determining new routes for the Newbury students, “so we know how many buses we need, what routes look like to stay under 60 minutes per route. The transfer is scheduled to go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year if the timeline stays on track.
“We can verify ride times and vehicle needs with this project, because what they’re going to do is they’re actually going to create our routes based on the current students from both districts,” he explained.
He said the software company already has West Geauga’s student and routing information to start working on new routes right away for those students. He said the Technology and Operations Department will be working with Newbury schools to gather routing data and needs for their students to get an idea of what the routes could look like if the territory transfer is approved.
The $27,840 grand total includes a first year, one-time fee of $10,990, a $9,200 project for determining the potential routes of both West Geauga and Newbury school districts for the potential territory transfer, optional $4,000 additional training and other costs associated with already-included training for the implementation of the software.
He added that $4,000 of the total would be a variable that would cover extra training, if needed, on top of the 12 months already included in the proposal. The district likely would not need this extra training, he said, but included it to show the maximum cost for the contract.
After the first year, Mr. Whelan explained, the yearly cost to the district would be $5,450, compared to the current yearly cost of about $4,470 for TripSpark.
Superintendent Richard Markwardt noted that the approximated routes under the $9,200 project, however, would not be functional for the Newbury students.
“We can’t predict routes two years in advance because we don’t have most actual student names and addresses because some kids will have graduated, new kids will have moved in, et cetera,” he said.
Mr. Whelan said that while the approximate routes under the project would not be functional for future students, they would act as a starting point. He explained that as seniors graduate and kindergartners enroll, adjustments can be made through the joint effort of the Department of Technology and Operations and Department of Transportation.