Burlington School Buses on the Road to Transportation Technology, Safety

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The Burlington School District Transportation Department is on track for upgrades.

The Burlington School Board voted unanimously on Monday to purchase Tyler Technologies’ Versatrans transportation suite, a GPS tracking system and student tracking suite that will allow the district to collect data on buses, streamline routes, follow students as they get on and off school buses, allow parents to follow their child’s bus and more.

“We think there would be a lot of benefit to the district from having GPS on the buses,” Business Director and Board Secretary Greg Reynolds told members of the Burlington School Board on Monday. of their virtual meeting.

The sequel, which comes with a one-time installation fee of $ 71,261 and a recurring annual fee for GPS systems and software, will be paid for with the district’s physical plant and equipment tax money.

“The purchase of the software and systems can be used with PPEL funds, but this will result in savings for the general fund,” said Reynolds. “The basis for this is currently with all the bus drivers, regular line drivers and back-ups, every time we hire someone the drivers will be running all the roads so there is a lot of time and work involved. training for all drivers. With the use of GPS systems on the bus, it will not matter which route they take. Drivers can simply get on the bus and the GPS will guide them through routes. “

The district is already using Versatrans for the routing and scheduling of student buses, so the GPS system and software, which should be fully operational at the start of the 2021-22 school year, will interface in real time with the District routing system, allowing route changes to be made immediately.

“Overall, you can really track the cost of your fleet and generate the greatest (ROI) with this piece of software application,” Andrew Gorzicki, a representative of Tyler Technologies, told the board. .

As part of the purchased suite, each student will receive a card that they will swipe when getting on and off the bus. An audio alert will notify the driver and student if they board the wrong bus or get off at the wrong stop.

Parents will also be able to see if their child is on the bus and when it will be dropped off, as well as see their child’s bus route, in real time by logging into Versatrans e-Link.

“You can log in through E-Link and see your son’s route, when he’s picked up, dropped off,” Gorzicki said. “It will really decrease the parents’ need for transportation.”

Students will still be able to get on and off buses if they lose their cards, although bus drivers will have to use a tablet to manually “load and unload” students, Gorzicki said.

The district will be able to order more cards as needed. Whether parents will have to pay a fee for replacement cards may be determined by district policy.

The maps will also help the district analyze the number of students traveling on buses. This data will be used to identify routing efficiencies and inefficiencies.

Notre Dame students who take Burlington buses will also receive cards.

“We would like to give Notre Dame the same pass as our students, because the second this kid gets on our bus, we are responsible for them, so we want to make sure we know they got on. and they came down, ”said Superintendent Pat Coen.

Gorzicki said the system will increase transparency and accountability within the transportation department and the community. The data collected as routes are traveled can be used to determine whether buses equipped with the system are involved in traffic violations, Gorzicki said.

“I think it’s a good thing to have,” said board vice chair Anika McVay. “Looks like it’s a safety net for our transport drivers.”

In this file photo, students from North Hill Elementary School sit on a school bus at the end of the school day.

Seatbelt

Students traveling in buses equipped with seat belts will have to start wearing them, regardless of their level or age.

Under current policy, only preschool students are required to wear seat belts, but this will change once the board approves the final reading of board policy 711.14 regarding passenger restraint systems. The first reading of the policy was approved on Monday.

“All three-point shoulder harnesses available on school district buses will be used by passengers when the vehicle is in non-stationary equipment,” the policy says.

Students will be instructed on their proper use during semester bus safety drills.

To comply with the changes to the Iowa administrative code, all new buses purchased by school districts must be equipped with three-point shoulder harnesses. The Burlington School District currently has two such buses, with two more scheduled for delivery in July.

“As we continue to update our fleet – we typically buy two buses a year – each of them will be fitted with seat belts,” Reynolds said.

Board member Tom Courtney is excited about the change.

“For 15, 20 years I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Courtney said. “We’ve always needed seat belts. I think there will be a lot of lives saved if we ever have a tragic accident.”

However, he expressed concern over the application of the new policy.

Program director Cory Johnson said he did not anticipate major issues with student compliance.

“I don’t anticipate having any major issues with this once we teach the expectations like every other expectation we have in school,” Johnson said. “I refer you to masks this year. This past summer we had a lot of discussion about what happens if students refuse to wear masks, and if they don’t put on their masks, and we haven’t seen That. They know the expectations, they follow the rules. If they forget, they abide by a simple reminder the vast majority of the time. “

Administrative fairness

The board also unanimously approved annual salary increases to $ 112,035 for Edward Stone Middle School Principal Angela Butler; at $ 108,559 for human resources director Laci Johnson and at $ 137,255 Reynolds.

An audit conducted by the district earlier this year found that all three administrators earned significantly less than people in the same or similar positions in other school districts. Butler’s salary showed the biggest disparity at 22% behind the average salary of a college principal in a similar-sized district.

Courtney agreed the increases were necessary, but he was unhappy that the inequalities existed in the first place.

“I’m disappointed we’re so far behind these people. I’m upset we’re so far behind,” Courtney said. “That’s why you get a lot of money, Mr. Coen, to keep pace. … It’s a terrible year to make this up. “

Coen has accepted responsibility for the wage inequality, although he and Reynolds pointed out that the district has seen significant savings in general funds this year due to the COVID-19 closures, including three months of unspent money earmarked for submarines totaling approximately $ 210,000, as well as lower utility costs.

Board member Darven Kendell said it was unfortunate that those salaries were behind schedule, but he defended previous board decisions.

“We’re always trying to maximize what we have with the minimum cost,” Kendell said. “We want qualified, professional, competent people, beyond skills, in our positions, but we always have to look at what it costs, not only in terms of salary, but also in terms of benefits, insurance , retirement, vacation, etc. And the state hasn’t always been kind to us with the funding. It wasn’t that long ago that we had a governor who had a blackout in the middle of the year, and those are exceptionally painful things to deal with. “

Council member Dean Vickstrom has called for salary reviews to be made every year.

Other business

The board also approved the job descriptions for the positions of child carriage professional and on-site supervisor for the Corsica Early Childhood Center, which will be expanded to serve children from 1 to 4 years old at the start of the next school year.

Coen warned of the potential for a future “right size” as the demographics of Des Moines County continue to change.

“(The Des Moines Quad County Equity Committee) reported that Des Moines County’s population born to age 18 is down by 486 children, which is 486 fewer students,” Coen said. “If this trend continues, we’ll have to look at a good size again, probably in 2025, 2027, somewhere in that area.”

The next council meeting will be on January 11 at 6 p.m. at the Burlington High School Library. The board has met virtually in recent meetings, but with students and staff returning to a hybrid model, board chair Joel Sieren has asked the board to resume in-person meetings with social distancing.


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