Coming soon: Bus tracking app for parents

Coming soon: Bus tracking app for parents

Officials concerned that winter weather will bring back bus delays

CUMBERLAND – Parents will soon be able to keep tabs on their students as they journey to school, thanks to a tracking app offered by local bus company Durham School Services.

Representatives for the bus company told the School Committee on Nov. 9 that the tracking app, which is linked to a GPS system on each school bus, can be downloaded to any phone or computer, and parents can then watch to see where their children are on their route and be aware of any delays.

The app is accurate within three to seven seconds, according to officials.

Durham staff members are being trained now on the program, and it will be presented to the School Committee in the coming weeks before being rolled out to the public. The program is secure, said representatives for the company.

School board members asked how long the app has been offered, and were told it’s been used in a pilot program for the past year and a half. Newport recently introduced the app, and Smithfield has used it for a while, making Cumberland the third user. The app in Smithfield hasn’t had a lot of activity from parents since being rolled out last year, said representatives from Durham.

Word of the tracking app comes as school officials have approved bus routes for the 2017-2018 school year.

Though most issues with late buses are now fixed, nearly three months into the school year, school board members said they’re concerned about whether the narrow time windows that school buses are arriving in will be thrown off once winter weather hits.

School Committee member Mark Fiorillo said some buses are running “so close to the first bell, even the second bell,” that he wonders if they’re going to be late when the snow falls.

School board member Stephen Hess echoed the sentiment, saying the district is currently “so close on our times” that a slight delay from an inch of snow might make “a large number of buses late.”

Paul Neves, of Durham, disagreed.

“Even with the weather coming, we feel that the buses will be on time,” he said.

School officials say they only recently discovered that one way Durham is staying on schedule is by putting some students who don’t have special needs on buses with special needs children. Fiorillo asked if that arrangement is allowed.

Representatives for Durham said if students are going to a school outside the area of town, sending a full-sized bus would simply take too long.

Rachel Santa, special education director for Cumberland schools, said she hadn’t been aware that non-special-needs students were riding on special needs buses until recently, and finds it “problematic.”

A special needs student riding a special education bus often requires that service due to the level of their disability, said Santa. While she doesn’t see it “as a big deal” putting other students on a bus with children who simply can’t access a standard bus physically, many of the children on these buses are there because of behavioral needs or the level of noise they make.

“It’s a little bit problematic to mix kids on that special service bus, in my opinion,” she said. “I’m a little concerned about who we’re mixing with whom, and for what reason.”

Santa said she understands the financial issue that would come with putting even more buses on the road, but said she’s especially concerned about younger students riding these buses and the issues they might come across.

Fiorillo asked for a review of the matter.

Comments

As I read the last part of this article it implies that besides including Special Needs Students, with Mild Special Needs, and Regular Students together, on the same bus, to bring them to one of our 7-Schools...Durham is also transporting the really Severe and Profound Students, that require 'Out of District' remedial needs, to their facilities?

At least that is how I read what is being reported!

If I am wrong???...I apologize.

However, if that is, in fact, the case, then I must ask "WHY" is this being done?

I ask because I learned from 6-years on the School Committee just about every requirement and guideline for these kinds of students' and their 'Out of District' needs.

When I retired from Full Time employment, for Part-Time income, I drove for over 3-years, and also worked as an aide, on school buses that transported Special Needs Students all throughout Rogues Island...and in a number of instances, to out of state facilities!

I did this for 1st-Student located over on Rt. 116 the George Washington Highway...and another provider in MA.

At the time I was told they (1st-Student)do this because a number of years ago the State of RI, and RIDE, as part of an effort to help local school districts with the astronomical costs of Special Ed Students, signed a contract with 1st Student, and picked up the cost, to provide for the specialized transportation needs of these kinds of Severe and Profound Students. Again, students that require 'Out of District' care...some info on this can be found here at the RIDE site:

http://www.ride.ri.gov/StudentsFamilies/AdditionalResources/StudentTrans...

So, again, I ask, WHY is Durham providing this 'Implied' kind of transportation, which is costing Cumberland taxpayers an expense...when it could be done for FREE?

Whatever...we need a clarification here??

One last thing...and, again, having transported Severe and Profound Special Needs Students, I 110% support, and agree with, Rachel Santa, the special education director for Cumberland schools about her concerns of this being done.

Some of these kinds of Special Needs Students, classified as Severe and Profound, very sadly so, are violent, and can only be mildly restrained. I had numerous students with this illness that I had to transport...they, whenever they could, would try to attack and punch-out other students (boys and girls) as they walked down the aisle!

Again, something else here that is very serious and need be looked into!

Tom Letourneau

Tom,

If you're referring to this line in the story -- "Representatives for Durham said if students are going to a school outside the area of town, sending a full-sized bus would simply take too long" -- then I may be able to clarify. The discussion was about Cumberland students who attend schools in Cumberland that are not their normally-assigned school. ie. a student who should go to one of our elementary schools (based on where she lives) but attends another one of our schools (because of special services offered there).

-Bill Dennen
School Committee