VUSD keeps tabs on student bus routes

(Vasyl / AdobeStock)

Stopfinder, Visalia Unified’s new transportation notification app, allows parents to know exactly when children are on and off their assigned busses

VISALIA – Parents no longer have to worry about their children boarding the wrong school bus thanks to an app recently implemented by Visalia Unified School District (VUSD).

This summer, VUSD began the implementation of the Stopfinder app, which allows parents to not only see if their child’s bus is running late, but also let them know when their kids get on and off the bus. In order to keep track of their students, VUSD sanctioned cards that students will now have to swipe when they get on and off the bus.

“We know it will take families time to get familiarized with the app and use it to notify us if their student is going home with a friend or simply not riding the bus that morning,” Superintendent Kirk Shrum said. “Ultimately, we hope our families find value in this app as a new communication and safety tool.”

While the implementation of the app is still ongoing as of report, every district school bus has now been fitted with a screen and a hot spot to help drivers make sure all their passengers are accounted for; it will also let them know if they have an extra rider.

“As student’s scan onto the bus, the bus driver will instantly know that the student is on the wrong bus,” Cristina Gutierrez, VUSD’s public information officer, said in a statement to The Sun-Gazette. “If the student is not at their designated bus stop, the bus driver will note it and let the student on the bus.”

While parents will not be able to track the bus routes themselves, they will receive a notification as the vehicle approaches their student’s stop.

In order to fully utilize Transfinder, the program that provides Stopfinder with its information, staff and faculty – specifically the bus drivers – router/dispatchers and driver managers underwent hours of training with additional virtual training sessions as they continue to implement the app, according to Gutierrez.

“Through this project, we are essentially rebuilding our transportation infrastructure from the ground up,” said Erik Kehrer, chief operations officer at VUSD. “We appreciate our community’s patience and understanding as we work to create a safer environment for all of our students.”

The year one software cost was approximately $83,000, with ongoing costs of $34,000. Gutierrez said the district anticipates the software will be fully implemented by January of next year.

VUSD announced they’ll be using the app during their ‘Back to School Press Conference’ on Aug. 2, sharing that it will help them keep track of the 4,000 to 6,000 kids they transport on a daily basis. Stopfinder has been live since the first day of the fall 2023 semester.

For parents wanting to use the app, the district recommends ensuring all their contact information is updated so they can get alerts not only from and about the app, but also other events that may impact the schools their children attend.

To learn more, parents can visit VUSD’s website, which has a page detailing how to enroll for the app.

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