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District 47, 155 could expand bus GPS services

CRYSTAL LAKE – Parents of some students in Crystal Lake School District 47 are hoping to take the guesswork out of when to drop off and pick up their children at bus stops.

Douglas Blake, a father of two students in District 47, said he wants the district to use its new GPS technology to give parents the opportunity to track where buses are on routes to better time when to drop off and pick up students.

Blake said it would be an especially useful tool for parents of younger children now that the district has more kindergarten students because of the full-day program. He said older students also could benefit and avoid standing in harsh weather conditions to wait for the bus.

“It’s not uncommon for a bus to be 10 minutes early or 10 minutes late,” Blake said. “Just the other day, one of the buses broke down, and they needed to send another to get the kids. It would be nice to be able to see where buses are when things like that happen so you don’t have to wonder.”

School Districts 47 and 155 were awarded a $50,000 grant to outfit their buses with state-of-the-art GPS software last November. The technology tracks bus mileage, idle times, heavy braking and fast takeoffs to find efficiencies in routes and gas use.

Kathy Anes, director of transportation for Districts 47 and 155, said there is some grant money left over to expand the program, and officials would meet in November to discuss options.

Anes said the likely option would be to install technology that tracks when students board the bus so officials know whether an expected rider got on board. But she said there is a program that would allow parents to see where buses are in real time, and that also could be pursued.

“Any time we are working with dollars, we’re cautious and take it step by step,” Anes said. “We’re looking at all our options.”

Anes said adding GPS to all 125 buses allows her to tell parents the exact status of a bus, and her staff is always available to field those calls.

“One of the biggest things this has allowed us to do is answer those parents’ questions more quickly and accurately,” she said. “I know exactly where [a bus] is at and where it’s been.”

Any additional services likely would increase the annual service fee, Anes said. The fee costs $26,900 this year and was split between the districts.

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