Schools to computerize bus system
The Carbon Board of Education has been looking for an easier and more efficient way of routing buses, recording vehicle maintenance and easing the pain of transportation woes when it comes to information about busing for years. Now it appears they have found it.
On Dec. 8, during the board's regularly scheduled meeting they approved the transportation department's purchase of a new software system that will make all of this and much more a reality. But the decision didn't come without some debate.
"There are a lot of good things about the software packages we have looked at, but I feel one is better than the other," Kerry Jensen, director of transportation told the board. "We looked all over the state and all but two districts that have gone to software for this purpose have chosen VersaTrans."
While that recommendation did not fall of deaf ears, there was a question about cost. The other software package, Transfinder, was less than half the cost, ($12,000 vs. $28,000) and that is what the sticking point in the discussion was.
But before that discussion took place, Jensen was asked to lead the board through the advantages of having software do the job that needs to be done.
Jensen pointed out some of the things the software will do, including:
â¢It provides for routing and planning, with changes in boundaries, student population in an area and times being calculated in.
â¢The software has a field trip activity manager that will allow teachers to schedule bus trips for special events right from their computer and will generate the cost of the trip so the instructor can have an instant and accurate answer that will tell them if a trip is within their budget.
â¢It allows for fleet management for all district vehicles (the district has over 100 of them) for maintenance, wear and value.
â¢Parents will be able to type in their address and see which bus stop is near their house, see bus schedules and changes.
â¢The system can generate letters to parents and students on a wide range of transportation related subjects.
â¢It provides a lot of help for special needs students.
"VersaTrans is more expensive because of the fact there is a lot of support in getting the program to go," said Jensen. "They will come here and work with us to incorporate our maps, stops, routes and almost everything else, while the other company does it over the web and expects us to figure it out."
Jensen went on to say that he had traveled to many districts that used the VersaTrans system and found that the users could utilize all the module sold to them, while the two districts that were using the other system were still not out of the woods when it came to running the complete program, even though they have had it for some time.
Board member Wayne Woodward was concerned about the cost and the fact that the learning curve for many software programs is steep at first. He wondered if once the staff got used to it, the other program might be just as good.
"Once that initial phase drops off can't staff we have move forward without the service?" he asked. "Do we have people who can move forward and learn this?"
Board member Ruby Cordova said, however, said after some study that she thought the VersaTrans was a better choice.
"I did some research," she said. "Transfinder has had a record of weak support with all of it coming over the phone. When there are problems VersaTrans sends someone to help."
Jensen pointed out that the program over 10 years would only cost the district about $2,800 per year. He also added that the company regularly upgrades the program and those are included in the costs. In addition he said that some of the modules that are in the VersaTrans program cost extra in the other one.
Finally business manager Darin Lancaster mentioned that he had looked at both the programs and felt that the better program for the dollar, even at the extended cost, was VersaTrans. That seemed to stop the discussion on cost and the board consequently moved to approve the purchase.