Industry trade magazines like School Bus Fleet and Student Transportation News regularly ask Synovia and Here Comes The Bus to participate as experts in their coverage. We are always excited to share our thoughts and share how we’re approaching new challenges and opportunities in our industry.
The questions below focus on how schools will approach bus routing as they shift their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate the complexity of this challenge and are working hard to craft solutions to help schools better manage this situation.
What are some of the factors related to running pupil transportation “post-COVID” should school bus route planners prepare for? (Social distancing, more extensive cleaning of buses, taking students’ temperatures before they board buses? Others?)
We at Synovia are moving rapidly to listen to our customers and truly appreciate what solutions they’ll require to support our new COVID-19 reality. Much like the shutdowns impacted different states and municipalities differently, we expect school districts to approach the COVID-19 student transportation with solutions tailored around their unique needs and requirements. Much like schools have different approaches to adopting technology on their buses, we expect to see diverse adoptions of social distancing, hygiene and illness alerts like temperature monitors. It’s rarely a blanket solution.
-How will making these adjustments potentially impact routes? (Will more routes and buses be needed, for example, since fewer students will be able to ride the bus together due to social distancing?)
It’s difficult to determine how routes will be impacted since schools are still reacting to the evolving nature of the virus’ threat to students and how it will translate to changes in school and student transportation. We suspect virtual learning will grow in significance and drastically change the way many districts conduct their school day. The ideas of snow day may go the way of the typewriter for many districts. We’re aware that not all districts have the tools to implement widespread virtual programs and will have to apply different techniques to keep students safe. Many of these may require significant changes to the school day, and therefore routing.
-What route software features in CalAmp/Synovia routing software can help with this additional scenario planning? Have new features been introduced in the past year or two that can help create or adjust routes in situations like this?
Synovia recently launched its newest version of Here Comes The Bus, which allows school districts to create unique stops without routing software, which is ideal for sports, field trips and situations like COVID-19 that require incredible flexibility for route planners, drivers and families. We’re already working with a handful of districts to pilot this tool to support their COVID-19 meal and homework routes.
-What other tips or resources do you recommend to route planners for adjusting routes to accommodate whatever the “new normal” may be when it comes to school bus routes?
We recommend that route planners allow for greater flexibility in their plans, whether that means longer stops or more stops or starting the day even earlier than normal for drivers. We also ask they think about the way different audiences will react to students going back to school on a bus. Air travel is down 90 percent because many people remain worried about the safety of not just the airplane, but the entire process of traveling from home to a distant destination. All of those touch points are now a potential threat. Students and their parents are excited for schools to re-open so our society can return to somewhat normal, but route planners will need to coordinate with school officials to think about all the touchpoints students will interact with on their journey. We’re thinking about this point-to-point journey as we develop new solutions.