SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Before the buses hit the road Thursday in South Bend for the first day of school, there has been a lot of work to improve the transportation department.
Last year, more than 14,100 students rode a South Bend Community School Corporation bus. There were numerous complaints of late or missed buses.
School leaders admit they missed the mark and say this year, they're making changes.
“We want to get this right,” Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings said. “We listened to parents, we listened to Facebook comments, and we want to get transportation right.”
Cummings says there are a number of improvements students and parents will notice.
First of all, more drivers.
“This year, we have had multiple job fairs, and we are at the point where we have 20 additional drivers that we're going to deploy throughout the city to ensure that kids are getting to school on time,” Cummings said.
Also new this year is a pilot program that allows a number of buses to be equipped with Wi-Fi.
“We want to ensure that students can be engaged on the bus but also that our athletes can use the buses as hotspots to finish their homework,” Cummings said.
The pilot program is not just a plus for kids on the bus but entire neighborhoods, too, when the bus is parked there overnight.
“This year, we're going to send buses into the community where there isn't internet access, so students can use their Chromebooks at home,” Cummings said.
Parents will still be able to track their kids' school buses on their smartphones with the MyStop app, and new cameras will give clear views from outside and inside the bus.
All South Bend buses are now equipped with stop arm cameras with clear visibility, even in the darkness.
“This is state-of-the-art technology,” Director of Transportation Juan Martinez Legus said. “We have the best of the best in the state, because that's what we expect with our program.”
South Bend students who ride the bus will be monitored by the bus driver and folks at the VMF. The VMF stands for vehicle maintenance facility, the transportation headquarters for South Bend schools
“Students will be monitored by the bus driver and folks at the VMF” said Rene Sanchez, chief operations officer at SBCSC. “We have over 200 buses and 176 routes.”
It’s a high-tech transportation transformation to get your kids to school and keep you connected.
A manned call center is up and running. Parents can call 574-393-7000 or email SBCSC transportation department officials.