August 9, 2012

Bus stop locator software wrecks on first day (Updated 7:10 p.m.)

Janet Woodall said she was frustrated and worried when 6 p.m. rolled around on Thursday and her nephew, who was supposed to leave Northwest Whitfield High School two-and-a-half hours earlier, still hadn’t come home.

“It’s a mess,” Woodall said. “It’s unacceptable.”

Eleventh-grader Payton Woodall finally arrived about 10 minutes later, but kinks in the bus routing software and other first-day-of-school glitches the Whitfield County Schools transportation system experienced had yet to be worked out Thursday evening.

School system spokesman Eric Beavers said late Thursday officials were trying to work through a problem in their new Bus Stop Locator software that they hoped would be resolved by the time students returned to school on Friday. Many buses were late leaving schools Thursday afternoon as transportation employees worked to reroute some students. Woodall said almost none of the buses were outside when school dismissed, and some students got on wrong buses and had to be taken back to the school before others were taken home.

Had it worked correctly, the software would have allowed parents to enter their address online to find the nearest bus stop for their child. That ability is important because many students’ bus stops have changed from last year because of moves or the fact that some of the stops have been eliminated or changed to save money. Instead of making the task flow more smoothly, the software issue had several parents confused about when and where to pick up their kids and concerned about when they would be home.

“The problem appears to be software-related,” Beavers said. “A representative of the vendor is in town working with our transportation team working on a fix.”

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Richard Schoen told Board of Education members on Tuesday he was concerned because the software wasn’t operational but that workers were still trying to fix it. Wednesday night, the school system sent out automated messages indicating the problems had been corrected. By Thursday morning, the first day of school, all that had changed. Several of the buses were rerouted with some not leaving schools until after 4 p.m.

Beavers said it’s not unusual to have to make adjustments during the first few days.

“It takes time at the beginning of the school year to fine-tune pickup and delivery,” he said.

Beavers said the online service isn’t the only way for parents to find out about bus stops.

“Teachers were helping parents with that,” he said. “Most of the schools I have talked to since yesterday (Wednesday) also had bus drivers who volunteered to be at the schools yesterday to help families find the right buses.”

Several parents commented on the school system’s Facebook page about not being able to use the tool they were told the night before was up and running. Woodall said Payton waited outside for the bus more than half an hour in the morning after being given the wrong information from the school system. Others reported the software did work for them but was slow. Still others said they couldn’t get through on the phone numbers they were told to call for information.

A statement on the school system’s website assures parents the Bus Stop Locator is “the public portal that draws its information from a bus routing system that has been in place since January.”

“The drivers know where they are going,” according to the site, “however, the new software brought unexpected hurdles that slowed the flow of information to our students’ families.”

Janet Woodall said that while she doesn’t blame the different schools for the problem, she still finds it unacceptable.

“It should have never happened, period,” she said. “They’ve had all summer to work on this. I know they’ve had cuts. I understand all that, but who is suffering? Not the school system. The kids are, all the kids.”

The school system’s statement adds an apology and directs questions about where students’ stops are located to Amanda Jennings ( or 706-537-3638) for students at schools on the north end and to Sandy Kelley ( or 706-537-3635) for schools on the south end.

Text Only