The impetus for the latest innovation at Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian) happened one cold, snowy morning in early January.
Vice-principal Tim Bentum recalls it was a morning that slowed traffic down in Toronto, which meant parents were calling in to the school wondering the location of the school bus.
To find out where a bus is Bentum calls the bus company, which radios the bus driver to check the location, and then relays the information back to the family. If there is a delay or cancellation the school starts a calling chain.
By the time the family gets the phone call, the bus status could be obsolete. Bentum notes it is hard to estimate in the Greater Toronto Area traffic how long a delay will last.
On this particular morning, he told a student to go back into the house because the bus was running late. However, the bus ended up making up time and passed by the house without the student, so Bentum ended up picking up the student himself.
Now all nine buses that bring students to the Woodbridge school are equipped with GPS tracking devices. Families can log onto an online program off the school’s website that is updated every 10 seconds showing where the bus is along its route.
Bentum worked closely with Bruce and Eric Vrieling of the school’s technology department to install the GPS’ and tracking software.
He says the GPS units is not only a great tool to determine where the buses are, but are also a good admissions communication piece as people better understand how the transportation system works through the program.
The GPS data is primarily for everyday use, not for historical use or reference.
“It’s got a lot of instant information communication benefits,” says Bentum.
Many students use their smart phones to check the bus status, or stay in communication with a parent who is sitting in front of a computer.
“We’ve heard comments from drivers that students are actually more on-time for their buses, which causes less headaches for the drivers as well,” he says, noting students can better time out their walking from the kitchen table to the bus.
“It’s another service for our families to better access communication at the school,” he says, adding there are many stories of students with long driveways who used to wait 10-15 minutes each morning and now stand out for two to three minutes.
While he says the impact can’t be quantified the school is receiving positive feedback.
“People are happy with the way they can access the bus routes and that spills over into other areas,” he says.