Don’t Miss the Bus
Mt. Vernon School Corporation’s New App Tracks Your Child’s Bus
Writer: Suzanne Huntzinger
Photography Provided by Mt. Vernon Schools
These days, there’s a phone app for almost everything you do, helping you get information in real time. In a pilot program for fleet management company, Mobil Trackr, Mount Vernon Community School Corporation just launched the app Don’t Miss the Bus. Now, thanks to the magic of digital technology, parents can open the app and see their child’s bus approaching in real time so they know exactly when the bus will arrive and when it’s dropping off.
The school corporation rolled out the digital tracker in January 2018, with a few buses at a time. The rollout took a couple of weeks, but so far, feedback has been positive. The school corporation began researching the possibility of a mobile bus tracker app at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, and this isn’t their first attempt.
“We tried Here Comes the Bus, and we weren’t satisfied with it,” says Dr. Shane Robbins, Superintendent of Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation. “Then we found Mobil Trackr, and they developed this app specifically for us. We’re they’re first school system.”
The mobile bus tracker app is only one part of an initiative for the corporation’s entire fleet of busses.
“I started this process by investigating the possibility of having Wi-Fi on all the busses,” Robbins says. “That paved the way for implementing a mobile bus tracker app. We are considering the possibility of adding stop arm cameras to busses.”
As the families in the school district become acclimated to using the app, they’ve noticed some favorable changes, and so has the school.
“During the winter, parents don’t want to stand out in the bitter cold and wait for the bus,” Robbins says. “So they pull up the app, and wait to go out when they see the bus is almost here.” Conversely, it cuts down on the time bus drivers wait on the kids. “We’re saving a lot of gas this way.”
The positive changes have not come without glitches. Although Dr. Robbins and Mobil Trackr did their best to ensure the app was functional and successful for Android systems and iPhone systems, users experienced issues.
“We experienced some bugs with the program, like with anything,” says Maria Bond, Director of Community Relations for Mt. Vernon CSC. “But a company representative gave us his personal cell number for parents to call with tech support questions. We went back and forth for quite a while, but one by one, they worked through the bugs and fixed them. They were wonderful to work with.”
“Some days, our buses are delayed. The push alerts notify parents of that change,” Bond says. The school also uses the push alerts to notify parents if their bus is out of service so they know what bus number to look for in its place.
While the convenience factor of the app is an important benefit, the app also gives parents peace of mind. For working parents, knowing their child’s whereabouts is always at the forefront of their minds.
“Parents can open the app and see when the bus has safely dropped their child back at home,” Bond says. “Even kids use the app. They’re allowed to use cell phones on the bus, so if they have a younger sibling on a different bus, they can see how soon they can expect their brother or sister. It’s an important safety net.”
Parents can program their app settings to reflect specific geographical boundaries so that when their bus enters that boundary, they’ll receive a push alert.
Transportation safety is number one priority for Derek Shelton, Maintenance and Transportation Director of Operations.
“These kids mean a lot to us. We take their best interests to heart to make the best decisions possible,” he says. “We try to stay in the flow of technology for communication as much as we possibly can. Dr. Robbins is a visionary who always looks for new opportunities for our school. We’re always learning about new things from other schools in other states at conventions.”
To ensure all families have access to the convenient bus tracker app, the school system has sent out email reminders, included information in newsletters, and they’ve posted it on the website. So far, around 550 families have registered for the app, and the school wants more. Parents can find the app in the App Store or Google Play.
“It’s easy to get to, easy to download and it’s free. What could be better?” Shelton says.
For more information about the app and how to register, visit the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation website at mvcsc.k12.in.us, click on the parent tab and scroll down to the Don’t Miss the Bus link to open an account.