How Technology Solves the Puzzle of Student Transportation
November 18, 2022 by
Orchard Farm School District has seen massive growth in the last five years, with student population almost doubling. This includes students in urban St. Charles, Missouri, along with many in rural areas outside of town. Transportation — namely, a transportation solution that could handle rapid growth, parent demands, student safety, and hiring through a shortage of bus drivers — was the highest priority.
The district’s legacy software didn’t interface efficiently with other programs and was just one of nine different tools needed to get a complete picture of all the district’s transportation operations. An all-in-one solution was clearly needed to empower their staff and better serve their community.
Routing Specialist Malissa Duran led the adoption of Tyler Technologies’ Student Transportation software suite, which packs a breadth of features into one solution that’s more efficient, easier to learn, and accessible to staff, parents, and bus drivers.
“It's an overwhelming success,” Duran says of the new software. “It's definitely changed how transportation operates at Orchard Farm.”
Putting Together a ‘Beautiful Puzzle’
Student Transportation allowed for the completion of Duran’s “beautiful puzzle” of transit, “where all the pieces are important.” Routes can be mapped for rural students that are just as efficient as those in the middle of the city. Being able to change routes at the last minute and easily notify bus drivers and parents, is essential for routes crossing rivers that flood in shoulder seasons. Electronic seating charts that register a student’s ID card tap when they board ensure administrators and parents always know where a child is on their way to and from school.
All of these pieces of the transportation puzzle are accessible through a single portal for teachers, administrators, and parents. Updates, such as adding a new student to a bus route, appear on a parent’s mobile app and on a bus driver's on-board tablet automatically.
"The student transportation department's goal is to obviously transport children, but it's also to serve the whole community in a safe and efficient manner,” Duran says.
“So, when we're routing, we're looking at what's the best, most equitable setup we can have for all students involved.”
Student Transportation works hand-in-hand with Tyler Drive on-board tablets, which give bus drivers a wealth of information at their fingertips.
The tablets record seating charts, stops, and any other pertinent information, like route changes due to weather, in a clean interface. Once on the road, the tablet displays a map and gives turn-by-turn directions.
Given the recent shortage in bus drivers, Duran says the on-board tablets give her district a leg up when hiring. “With the bus driver shortage, bus drivers have their pick of the schools, essentially.”
When potential new hires are introduced to Tyler Drive, however, it’s easy to recognize the advantage it gives over a district using different tech.
“They know that it's going to be harder for them to make a mistake. It protects them a little bit,” Duran says. “And then it also provides those turn-by-turn directions on their route.”
The solution has “transformed how parents view student transportation” in the district, Duran says. Parent inquiries, as well as complaints, have gone way down since implementing the software.
Little emergencies throughout the day are minimized with the mobile app, that has live location tracking of buses, updates due to weather, and route and seating assignments at the beginning of the year. If parents do have concerns, Orchard Farm staff are able to use the system to give better, quicker answers.
Districts may think, “why change? what’s the point?” Duran says. “Because it helps us be more reactive in situations, and you're more proactive.”
The ability to harness technology for increased efficiency, safety, and proactivity has set up Orchard Farm as a local leader in their community. Parents, staff, and bus drivers now see the advantages of modern student transportation.