Wake Ed

Durham providing more info on school buses than Wake County

James "Trip" Hatley watches after letting students off at their stop after driving them home from Holly Grove Middle School on August 20, 2014, in Holly Springs. Durham Public Schools has moved ahead of Wake County schools in providing real-time info to parents on where their child’s bus is located.
James "Trip" Hatley watches after letting students off at their stop after driving them home from Holly Grove Middle School on August 20, 2014, in Holly Springs. Durham Public Schools has moved ahead of Wake County schools in providing real-time info to parents on where their child’s bus is located. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Durham Public Schools has moved ahead of Wake County and the rest of the state in helping parents know where their child’s school bus is located.

Durham school officials held a demonstration Tuesday of the new “Here Comes The Bus” app that allows users to see the location of a student’s bus and confirms when the bus has arrived at the stop and at the school. Users can also receive text alerts or an e-mail message when the bus is within a certain distance of a passenger stop location

Durham school officials say they’re the first district in North Carolina to offer the tracking service to parents, which can be used on tablets, smartphones and computers.

“Once I get the push notification, I know I can make it to the bus stop before the bus gets there,” Shawn Svoboda-Barber, the father of a sixth grader, told ABC-11. “So I use that as a handy way to utilize my time at home and not just sitting at the bus stop, waiting.”

Wake County school officials had talked to the school board in May 2014 about using a similar type of app. It’s possible because Wake, like other school systems, has installed GPS units on buses.

But the hold-up for Wake, at least as of last year, was privacy and cost.

One question for Wake was whether the district would cover the cost of the app or pass on a fee to parents. In Durham, it’s free for parents to use.

Privacy for students was another issue for Wake school officials.

“Unlike public transit, I want to know where a CAT bus is so I can make the stop,” Neter told the board. “K-12 transportation has specific students on specific buses. We have issues like joint custody.

“We have other issues and there is likely going to be some concern on parties getting a benefit as a double edge, a double-edged sword. The flip side of that coin is privacy concerns So those are some things we'll have to look at.”

Durham school officials say they’ve handled the privacy issue by requiring parents to have the student’s ID number to use the service.

In lieu of an app, Wake posts live updates on bus service on the district’s website. In addition, many schools tweet out when buses have arrived and departed the campus. But those options are less than what parents can now find in Durham.

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