Client Profile: Detroit Public Schools

  • Industry: School District
  • Location: Detroit, Michigan
  • Number of Employees: 5,700
  • Students: 50,000
  • Tyler Client Since: 2010
  • Tyler Products Used: Versatrans
  • Website:


Like many school districts across the country, Detroit Public Schools was faced with numerous challenges when COVID-19 forced them to close their schools to in-person attendance. For Aaron Walter, executive director of transportation, the biggest challenge was figuring out how to provide breakfast and lunch to approximately 2,800 of the district’s special needs students. Walter described how, when the crisis hit, “the Office of Student Transportation was quickly called upon to support our Office of School Nutrition in providing meals to selected special needs students.” The district had to find a way to efficiently get food to thousands of students as quickly as possible.


With no time to waste, the Detroit student transportation team got to work, using their Versatrans® student transportation technology to help. “School closed on a Friday and the transportation staff worked all weekend and had routes ready for Tuesday to start providing breakfast and lunch door-to-door to over 2,800 of our most vulnerable special needs students,” Walter said. His transportation department, the Special Education department, and the Office of School Nutrition identified the students with the highest need within three days of the school closing. Walter recalled, “This task was easy because of the information we already have in Versatrans on each student. For all our special needs students, we capture the student’s disability and program in the daily import.” In order to avoid overwhelming any individual school’s kitchen, each meal delivery route was designed to deliver a specific number of student meals to each neighborhood meal pickup location. With the new routes in place, Walter’s team was able to provide additional resources, such as homework deliveries. Walter explained the process: “Academic packets were delivered to students, and we were able to use Versatrans to design routes and export reports to make the packet assembly an efficient process.

Having the ability to create new student files and new routing schemes with the click of a mouse [made homework and meal deliveries] extremely easy. Other departments in our district are amazed by how quickly we can turn around results and have routes ready to perform critical tasks.

Aaron Walter

Executive Director of Transportation

The functionality and ability to create customized reports in Versatrans really made life easy when we printed out labels. We had the ability to create our own information fields and export that information to reports, and eventually we were able to print those information fields on mailing labels which made life easy for our assembly line and delivery drivers.”


Because of the quick work and smart thinking of the Detroit Public Schools staff, high-need students in their community have been able to receive a nutritious breakfast and lunch every week day, and receive the school work they need to continue their education. Supporting the students is the highest priority, but the district was able to reap other benefits, too: “Being able to provide the meals to students actually increased the number of meals that otherwise would not have been served. Because our district is reimbursed federal dollars in a formula based on the number of meals served, we were able to claim more federal reimbursement dollars as a result of delivering meals,” Walter explained. Additionally, he said, “Our Office of School Nutrition was very pleased with the food delivery program as it helped them minimize the impact of decreased meals being served due to COVID-19.”

Walter found his community members also had a positive reaction to the meal delivery system. Because 85% of families in Detroit are classified as low-income, “Our parents were also very appreciative of this program as several families rely on the school to provide breakfast and lunch.” If keeping students fed wasn’t enough of an accomplishment, Walter was also pleased that the new routing system meant they were able to continue working with their transportation contractors and avoided having to lay off their drivers. Walter concluded by saying, “[Versatrans] could benefit any district that has suspended in-person learning but still needs to provide food or academic packets, conduct wellness checks and home visits, or provide services to their students. Having the ability to create new student files and new routing schemes with the click of a mouse makes this process extremely easy.”

Case Study Highlights

  • School bus drivers were able to pick up meals from schools to deliver to more than 2,800 students.
  • The district was eligible and reimbursed for federal funding based on the number of meals served.
  • Driver and staff layoffs were avoided by creating meal delivery routes.

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