AUSTIN (KXAN) — Monday is the first day of school for children in the Austin Independent School District, it’s also the first day parents will able to keep track of their child’s bus all in one easy and handy app.
“Where’s the Bus” is a new app that uses GPS data from buses and makes it available to AISD parents and guardians. While AISD buses have been equipped with GPS tracking devices since 2009, in 2015, the board decided to upgrade the system so it would be compatible with “4G” and “LTE” technologies, which allows for the implementation of the new app. The upgrades cost the district $194,000 for the first year and then $155,000 for each 12-month period thereafter.
AISD says the new app should lighten the bus dispatchers’ workload, who have to field phone calls from parents on days when buses run late.
Bill Sharp has been a bus driver with AISD for 13 years. He says buses most often run late due to traffic issues and bad weather, like rain. But, when it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s also beneficial to know when your child’s bus is arriving so they don’t have to wait in the heat.
The app shows an estimated time of arrival at your child’s stop, so you know how long kids can wait at home, cool, safe and dry. If you have multiple kids going to multiple schools, you can track each of their routes separately with tabs at the bottom of the screen. Even after they’ve been picked up, you can watch to make sure the buses arrive at school.
Roughly 22,000 to 23,000 AISD kids ride the bus to school each day. But if all 38,000 eligible bus riders decide to take the bus one day, the app is built to handle the load.
The app is also built to be safe. Only AISD parents who have been signed up through the “parent cloud” with the school district can download the app and get information for their children. If grandparents or babysitters need access to the app, parents must sign them up through the cloud first.
Kris Hafezizadeh, Director of Pupil Transportation at AISD, says he “feels awesome” about the school year ahead. He has all his routes covered with full staff and he’s got extra drivers and monitors if needed. He says, “We really feel good about it. We are ready for Monday, and this app is just another icing on top the cake.”
Kris does mention he needs to hear input from parents in these first few days of using the app to work out any unforeseen kinks. Trial runs so far have gone well.
The free app is available on desktop, for iPhone and Android. You can download it now, but it won’t go live until Monday morning.