Dis­trict to use ‘SafeS­top’ app

SafeS­top is a mo­bile app that pro­vides par­ents with in­for­ma­tion on the school buses trans­port­ing their stu­dents

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ginger Rae Dun­bar gdun­bar@dai­ly­lo­cal.com @GingerDun­bar on Twit­ter

EAST CALN >> The Down­ing­town Area School Dis­trict will use an app that al­lows par­ents to stay in­formed about their child’s school bus ar­rival and de­par­ture times.

SafeS­top bus lo­ca­tor app, an in­no­va­tive mo­bile app, con­nects the dis­trict’s par­ents and its school of­fi­cials with in­for­ma­tion on the buses trans­port­ing their stu­dents to school and from school.

“With busy lives and two par­ents work­ing, the piece of mind know­ing your child’s where­abouts be­fore and af­ter school and most es­pe­cially dur­ing emer­gency sit­u­a­tions like school clos­ings and de­lays, is rea­son enough for us to pro­vide this pro­gram to our DASD fam­i­lies,” Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Lawrence Mus­so­line said.

The app gives par­ents the abil­ity to see if a bus is re-routed be­cause of traf­fic, an ac­ci­dent, road block­age, and pro­vides in­forma-

tion to the par­ents about the bus ar­rival. It also helps par­ents know of de­par­ture times from school in times of in­clement weather when school closes early.

“It’s a valu­able tool we want to pro­vide for our par­ents,” Mus­so­line said.

The app pro­vides par­ents with a real-time map fea­ture that dis­plays the lo­ca­tion of their child’s bus and es­ti­mated ar­rival times at their bus stop. An alerts and mes­sag­ing cen­ter will re­lay ser­vice in­for­ma­tion from the school or trans­porta­tion provider.

The school dis­trict ser­vices ap­prox­i­mately 14,000 stu­dents at ten ele­men­tary schools, a sixth grade cen­ter, two mid­dle schools and three high schools. It is the largest school dis­trict in Ch­ester County.

“Af­ter two years of re­search, the dis­trict is ex­cited about pro­vid­ing par­ents with an in­ex­pen­sive op­tion to track their child’s trans­porta­tion ar­rival and dis­missal times,” Mus­so­line said.

The app costs $19.99 per fam­ily per year. Par­ents can add all of their chil­dren who at­tend the dis­trict to view their bus­ing lo­ca­tion and in­for­ma­tion.

How­ever, the GPS track­ing is un­avail­able when the des­ig­nated school bus is out of ser­vice for main­te­nance and a re­place­ment bus is used. Dis­trict of­fi­cials in­formed par­ents that “ev­ery at­tempt will be made to no­tify you through the app an­nounce­ment or e-mail, when this oc­curs.”

Since dif­fer­ent buses are ar­ranged to trans­port ath­letes and oth­ers, the dis­trict said it is un­able to pro­vide the track­ing ser­vice for af­ter school ac­tiv­ity buses.

SafeS­top al­lows only par­ents and care­givers to view it. Dis­trict of­fi­cials said that from the reg­is­tra­tion and pri­vacy stand­point, it is 100 per­cent se­cure.

“When our fam­i­lies can know where their bus is and when to ex­pect it at the bus stop, it makes ev­ery­one’s day a lot eas­ier,” said Jeffrey Sim­mons, trans­porta­tion su­per­vi­sor at the dis­trict. “We welcome this type of in­no­va­tion and we are con­fi­dent our par­ents will too.”

In a news­let­ter to par­ents, dis­trict of­fi­cials stated that “we are the first dis­trict in Ch­ester County, and to our knowl­edge, the first in Penn­syl­va­nia to pro­vide this us track­ing op­tion for par­ents.”

“Not only should SafeS­top pro­vide peace of mind and a new level of con­ve­nience for our par­ents, but it will help us an­a­lyze in real-time how our trans­porta­tion sys­tem is per­form­ing,” Sim­mons said.

Richard Fazio, fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer for the dis­trict, said it is typ­i­cal for the school dis­trict to re­ceive nu­mer­ous in­quiries about the stu­dent trans­porta­tion dur­ing the be­gin­ning of the school year. He said this app may not al­le­vi­ate that, but he said the trans­porta­tion should im­prove this year.

“It’s no se­cret that the start of the school year last year did not go well,” Fazio said when he dis­cussed the app dur­ing a school board meet­ing ear­lier this month. “I wanted to be as­sured that that wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen again.”

Dis­trict of­fi­cials had changed its bus­ing sched­ule dur­ing the 2014-15 school year to ad­dress long com­mute times. Fazio said that sev­eral fac­tors con­trib­uted to that, in­clud­ing the open­ing of the Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Cen­ter, ele­men­tary redistricting and the con­sol­i­da­tion of the high and mid­dle school dis­missal time.

“We are ex­cited to be on the fore­front of tech­nol­ogy,” Sim­mons said.

The Safes­top App is avail­able for Ap­ple and An­droid tablets and phones. Par­ents can also ac­cess the app on a com­puter browser. The ac­count is avail­able to two mem­bers of the fam­ily.

The app will be avail­able for use when the 2015-2016 school year be­gins on Aug. 31.

Mus­so­line ex­pressed grat­i­tude for the part­ner­ship be­tween the dis­trict’s bus com­pa­nies — Krapf, Wolf­in­g­ton and On the Go Kids — for “shar­ing our vi­sion and mak­ing this hap­pen for our par­ents.”

Pa­tri­cia McGlone, dis­trict spokes­woman, also com­mended the bus com­pa­nies.

“With­out their help and sup­port in get­ting this pro­gram up and run­ning this fall, we would not be able to of­fer this unique app to our par­ents,” McGlone said.

For more in­for­ma­tion on SafeS­top, visit www. safestopapp.com.

FILE PHOTO PETE BANNAN — DAILY LO­CAL NEWS

Down­ing­town Area School Dis­trict will use an app that al­lows par­ents to stay in­formed about their child’s bus sched­ule.

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