KCS transportation upgrades

More programs at Kokomo-Center Schools mean more complex and, often times, longer bus routes. In an effort to improve efficiency and let parents know exactly where their children are, KCS is installing a GPS bus tracker system on all of its buses.

As an added bonus to students, Wi-Fi also will be installed as part of the two-part technology upgrade.

“We have been reviewing lots of options for our transportation department, continuing to try to make it better. There is a reality now with all of our new programs, we’re transporting our students to more schools than ever before,” said KCS superintendent Jeff Hauswald.

Currently, an elementary child living in Center Township can be transported to up to four different elementary schools, and a middle school child can be transported to up to three middle schools. In addition, transportation also is provided for the head start program, the preschool program, Kokomo High School, alternative school programs, and for extracurriculars.

With transportation being more complex than in the past, the district has been receiving calls from parents asking if they know where their child is. The GPS system will allow officials to tell parents exactly where their child’s bus is at any given time.

“We will often times have parents call in and say ‘is the bus running a little bit late?’ or ‘do you know where my child is? They ride this bus,’” he said. “This will allow us to answer those questions very quickly, and that is what we wanted—to know where every bus was at any moment.”

In addition to knowing where the buses are, the GPS system will provide data that will allow officials to track the routes and help improve efficiency.

“We can know how long our bus routes are taking on average which allows us to plan accordingly. If a bus route takes longer than you think it will nine days out of 10, then we need to allow more time in the future for that route,” he said. “It just gives us a lot of data to make more informed decisions.”

Director of operations Mike Wade and transportation supervisor Larry Johnson agreed that the new system will allow the corporation to better transportation. Johnson said adding GPS will help improve the overall safety of students.

“By knowing where every bus is located, our communications will improve, and the overall safety of our students will be greatly enhanced,” he said.

Additionally, the GPS system will notify officials at the bus headquarters if a driver has been forced to detour from the normal route. Johnson said this will give the department a resourceful tool to provide a safer and more efficient transportation experience for the community.

In the second part of the upgrade, Wi-Fi will be installed on all the buses.

Hauswald said he believes the upgrade will make Kokomo Schools the first comprehensive transportation in K-12 education to offer free Wi-Fi in Indiana.

With technology upgrades also being made in the schools, Hauswald said having Wi-Fi on the buses is the next step.

“We have set out a goal that we really want to be one of the leading transportation departments in terms of the services we provide and the options for our students on the buses,” he said. “It’s very innovative, and it’s a really exciting addition to what we’re already doing.”

Currently, laptops are provided for all high school freshmen. Next year, the one-to-one technology will expand to include sophomores. Take-home options are being offered to the students, and Hauswald said more options will be offered in the future.

Having Wi-Fi will allow students with laptops, as well as with cellular devices, iPads, and other electronic devices, to use the service to do homework or even for just basic communication.

“This is going to be very exciting to students who ride the buses,” he said.

The Wi-Fi system is expected to be implemented by April 2013, with GPS enhancements to follow shortly after.