NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Riding the school bus is a right of passage for many students, but for parents of younger children, especially, it can be a stressful time wondering if their child got to and from school safely.
Now, a cellphone application can take the worry out of the ride.
The Here Comes The Bus app, which is available for Nassau County parents, tracks your child's school bus based on a GPS device on the bus. The app tells parents when the bus will arrive at the bus stop, where it’s at on the route and even when it arrives at school, and does the same for the ride home.
The app covers all 110 school buses in Nassau County.
“At any given time I can see where every bus in our fleet is at and which direction they’re heading, where they’re going, what’s going on with them,” said Brad Underhill, director of transportation for the Nassau County School District. “The Here Comes The Bus app not only lets you know when it’s going to arrive but also lets us send direct messages to the parent's cellphone to say, 'Hey, the bus has been delayed due to an accident.”
That's a welcome change for some parents.
“The traffic out here, you never know what the holdup is,” parent Megan Wortham said. “There’s not a good notification system if there’s an accident, so yeah, I think it’s a great thing.”
The app is meant to keep children from waiting by the road longer than they have to.
“The app is neat. You tell it when (you) want to know -- so, (for example,) I want to know a mile before the bus gets here, 2 miles, (etc.). You tell us when you want to be notified,” Underhill said.
It also allows the district to message parents and students on a particular bus.
“I think that actually would put a lot of parents at ease,” said Jona Moore Lightfoot, who has a 6-year-old son. “It definitely would make me feel better if I knew he was on the bus, off the bus, things like that.”
The district is working on giving out ID cards for each student to scan on the bus, making sure they are getting on the right bus and getting off at the right stop.
Right now, Here Comes The Bus costs the district about $3,000 a month for all the buses. The extra step with an ID will add an extra $1,000 a month to that.
The computers on the bus also have a panic button connecting the bus to 911 dispatch.
That technology with the ID system should be officially rolled out at the start of the next school year, but in the meantime, the district will do some testing with certain students to work out any kinks.
For information on how to sign up for Here Comes The Bus, go to https://www.nassau.k12.fl.us.