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This product will allow Hall County parents to track their child’s bus along its route
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On Feb. 8, 2021, Hall County's school board approved of new bus hardware and software to allow parents and students to track and get notifications for individual bus routes.

Hall County parents will soon be able to track their child’s bus route from their phones and receive notifications about the vehicle’s estimated time of arrival.

During the Hall Board of Education work session on Monday, Feb. 8, the school board approved the installation of new phone-accessible tools from Versatrans, a transportation software company.

“It is something that to me makes a lot of sense,” Superintendent Will Schofield said. “We’ve wanted it for a long time and during this pandemic, with all of the uncertainty, this seems like one area we can take some uncertainty and anxiety out of our drivers’ and our parents’ lives.”

Once the product is installed in all the system’s buses, Clay Hobbs, Hall’s transportation director, said parents can download the Versatrans Onscreen “My Stop” app for free and have access to their child’s route information, including where the bus is and when it’s expected to arrive at a certain location. 

Hobbs assured the board that the app includes safety features, requiring a student’s identification number and current campus password to access their specific route. He said the public will not be able to use it. 

With Versatrans Onscreen, which offers GPS tracking and driver activity software, Hobbs said the district will be able to know where the vehicles are at all times and confirm whether a bus driver is following their designated path. The software, he explained, gives users the ability to set alerts that can notify them if the driver left for their route on time. 

“The possibilities in that are endless,” Hobbs said. 

The board also voted to purchase 15 Tyler Drive tablets, which would be mounted in the driving compartment in buses away from the window. The device would give drivers stop-by-stop directions and pull information from the district’s current route planning software.  

Hobbs said Tyler Drive would be used among substitutes, so they can easily fill in for a driver without having to familiarize themselves with the district’s paths. He hopes the tablets will allow Hall to retain more of its substitute drivers. 

"Substitute bus driving is one of the hardest things to do in any school system across the country,” Hobbs said.  “ … The biggest thing is not knowing where to turn, where the stop is. Trying to figure all that stuff out in the dark, especially in the morning, is especially difficult. This takes a lot of that anxiety off the plate of the guy or lady trying to drive that bus.”

Hobbs said the product installation for both Versatrans Onscreen and the tablets could start as early as April. 

The estimated first year cost of Versatrans Onscreen — which includes software, hardware and installation — is $261,662, and the annual amount for the data plan fee following year-one is $134,211. Hobbs estimated that Tyler Drive will cost around $48,775 for the first year and $6,000 for the subsequent year. He said the district currently has around 180 bus drivers and runs 265-270 buses a day.