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October 31, 2013  |   Comments (7)   |   Post a comment

Wyoming district gets iPads for school buses

By Kelly Roher

Wyoming's Sheridan County School District #1 has assigned iPads to 20 school buses. Drivers have access to a variety of information, including road and weather conditions, and details about the students on their buses.

Wyoming's Sheridan County School District #1 has assigned iPads to 20 school buses. Drivers have access to a variety of information, including road and weather conditions, and details about the students on their buses.

RANCHESTER, Wyo. — Sheridan County School District #1’s transportation department has integrated the use of iPads on its school buses, a move that is helping to increase safety and efficiency.

The district serves about 1,000 K-12 students, and every student in kindergarten through fifth grade has access to an iPad or computer in the classroom. Every middle school student has a take-home iPad, and high schoolers have a take-home laptop.

Therefore, utilizing the iPads on the buses and within the transportation department was a natural progression of efforts taking place district-wide.

Transportation Director Lori Thornburg told SBF that there are 20 iPads assigned to 20 vehicles, which allows the transportation staff to ensure that any bus driver — even a substitute driver — has access to the technology that is available through the device.

She said that the staff uses the technology to access district communication, emergency contact numbers, road and travel reports and weather conditions.

“We are realizing greater efficiencies in our daily planning and management of timesheets and trip sheets for regular routes, field trips and sports activities,” Thornburg added. “We have streamlined tracking of students, including giving drivers access to pictures of the riders on the bus for faster recognition of who is assigned to ride that bus and for student discipline slips if needed.”

GIS has been integrated too, which allows the staff to pull students’ addresses from Powerschool and map routes for greater efficiencies. The Powerschool integration also allows bus drivers to have important health information about students — like allergies — to ensure they remain safe while on the bus.

Instant messaging and FaceTime are also accessible through the iPads. Thornburg said instant messaging allows her to safely convey information to and receive information from the bus drivers.  

“It’s a nice addition to the use of radios, which are sometimes not the best choice for communication,” she explained. “FaceTime is another communications addition we really like because it allows the drivers to communicate face-to-face with school mechanics to manage repairs in real time. We remain open to apps that enhance our work, like a new speedometer app that we just added and now use as a backup to our primary vehicle speedometers.”

Thornburg uses an iPad to monitor what goes on throughout the system on a daily basis, and beginning in November, all of the district’s principals and administrators will have iPads, and they will be able to check bus routes, including the whereabouts of any bus on a route or student on the bus.

Thornburg said that the transportation department went into this project knowing that it would require state auditor approval for the expense of the iPads.

“We began by working with David Koskelowski, program manager, pupil transportation, at the Wyoming Department of Education, and Wyoming’s state director, to find out if he felt the integration of technology would be accepted by the state auditors,” she explained. “David liked the idea and worked with the state auditors to ensure reimbursed funding would be approved. It was, with one stipulation: that the iPads be assigned to buses and not individuals.”

Everyone in the transportation staff was trained on how to properly use the iPad, and how to maximize its usefulness. When using the iPads, transportation team members are required to adhere to the district’s policies on using digital equipment. As safety is of the utmost importance, bus drivers are not allowed to use the iPads when they are operating a school bus.  

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Read more about: efficiency, routing

I am a bus driver in Pennsylvania. I am not afraid of technology. The only advantage I see with having the ipads is the identification of children at a stop. I mean, if we want to use technology available to us, why don't we scan their eyes or scan their fingerprints as they get on and off the bus. (Sarcasm intended) Do we really need an ipad? Where do you put it while you're driving? I don't understand how you would have service on an ipad to instant message if you don't have cell service? If there is no cell service there is probably no data connection. @Jennifer...sometimes the regular driver is not driving and a substitute has to take their place. Also, the first few days of school you have new kids and possibly new routes. Don't get me wrong, I think the ipad for drivers is a waste of money as well but, I can see how the kid identification thing is helpful. I just think there is a less expensive way to do it.

Michelle    |    Nov 19, 2013 03:44 PM

As a parent in this district I am a huge fan of the use of the iPads. I like that the principles can know where my child's bus is at all times and I love that sub bus drivers will know that my young child is in the right place with the use if pictures. The use of technology does not make the drivers or transportation department lazy it makes them more prepared. If this makes the routes, repairs and planning more efficient it is not a waste if money it is a time and money saver. I have noticed that those afraid if technology are always the first it negatively comment on the changes. Why not use the new technology available to us?

Parent    |    Nov 11, 2013 08:28 AM

Funding that could have gone elsewhere....this is bull. Communication? That's what dispatch is for. Facetime...yeah right more like Facebook, games, messaging....just like any other person. Whereas I like the idea about the ID part as stated in the above comment, Bus drivers have been doing just fine since buses began taking kids to school...if you don't know your own route or the kids on it, you shouldn't be driving.

Jennifer    |    Nov 11, 2013 08:16 AM

I think it's a neat idea but only if the drivers adhere to the rules for using the technology safely.

Tracy    |    Nov 05, 2013 05:17 AM

I am a district #1 driver and safety is the utmost important in our district and myself as a driver. As a driver in a rural area I sometimes have no cell service or radio communication so I can use my iPad to contact my boss and the schools. I am also an activity driver the iPad has access to wydot, weather conditions road closures everything you could possibly need to get to your destination safely. The iPad helps with bus notes so we as driver can make sure each child can get on the right bus safely cause we also deal with the YMCA bus. We do not use the iPad while driving. However I was on a trip I advised the teacher on board I had to get off at the next exit to a safe. Spot my speedometer was not working I turned my iPad on to speedometer placed it in a safe place to see my speed so I could continue. Safely on my trip. Also the iPad shows Id for students so you can put a face to the bus stop, and I could have a sub come in open my iPad for route and a picture of each student that gets off at the stop so no student is left behind. The iPad is a great tool and has many advantage s for us drivers with the precious children we transport everyday.

Kat    |    Nov 04, 2013 10:05 AM

somewhat that is going a bit too far. Who is to say those driver do not use them while driving, meaning their eyes not on the road when moving?

terri    |    Nov 02, 2013 05:23 AM

wow, when do u have time to use an ipad while on bus? are we really getting that lazy? what's wrong with a regular GPS? and all these kids taking home ipads and laptops? really? this is why kids are freaking stupid these days. i have a problem with elem kids using calculators to do math..........wth is that kind of learning? but anyways. waste of money!!!!! each generation is getting worse and worse.

Bus Driver    |    Nov 01, 2013 08:59 PM

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