Transportation director reveals busing app
The Marshalltown Community School Board met for the first time on Monday since implementing full remote learning due to the increased rate of COVID-19 cases. It was also the first meeting for the return of board member Niko Aguirre, who replaced former member Bob Untiedt.
Untiedt resigned from the board in October.
During the regular meeting, Rex Kozak, the director of transportation, presented the Stopfinder Parent Application to the board members.
“This is our next step with moving forward with our transportation software,” he said.
The app will be used as a communication tool for parents whose students utilize district buses. Stopfinder will enable a parent to share route information with others, locate buses and receive notifications from the school district.
The first thing Kozak said would happen is parents would receive an email invitation. There is no cost to download the app to smart phones or tablets. The parent can utilize the app for multiple children and receive information on where the students are going — such as school buildings or events.
“It gives them their bus number. It gives them their pick-up time, their drop-off time at the school and then if there is any other busing going on with that student, they can follow that,” Kozak said.
Also, if a parent is curious about the route a bus takes, that can also be viewed.
“That is the beauty of this app,” Kozak said. “It is really important for the parent to control who has access to these routes. They have absolute control of what bus their kid is on and where it stops at.”
The chance of a student missing the bus will also be reduced. Parents can opt to receive alerts when a bus approaches the stop. Kozak said he would recommend parents choose an alert location that is two or three walking minutes away from their stop.
“This is really going to be a nice feature for our parents,” he said. “They can set up as many alert zones as they want.”
Parents will also be able to watch the bus move on the route in real time from their phone or tablet.
Kozak said parents will have the ability to add or remove drop-off locations, such as day care facilities, and to notify the district of a child’s absence from the bus on a certain day.
“This is something we have been wanting. It is something Theron has had on his radar for the last couple years since I’ve been on,” Kozak said. “We are excited about moving forward with this.”
One of the vital keys to the app working properly is proper information from parents in the Infinite Campus. Kozak said if information is not current it will make the job more difficult for the district.
He there is a lot of things to work on before Stopfinder will be available for parents.
Board member Jan McGinnis asked how it would work for students with more complicated custody conditions, such as with one parent on Monday, and another parent on Tuesday.
Kozak said that is something that is being worked out.
“Trying to figure out how to get the software to recognize that and which bus they’re on,” he said. “That is a challenge we’re going to be working on the next couple of weeks.”
McGinnis also asked if parents would receive an alert if a child misses the bus. Kozak told her that is beyond the capabilities of the app at this time.
Board member Mike Miller asked Kozak what Mechdyne’s role was in the creation of the app, since they were mentioned in the presentation. Kozak said the district is providing Mechdyne with the information and Mechdyne will walk parents through the download process.
“It’s just a partnership [Technology Director] Amy [Harmsen] worked out,” he said. “It gives us opportunity to have one more person on the front lines to help parents out.”
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