School Safety: Tracking COVID-19 on Buses

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Getting ready for a new school year is challenging under normal circumstances, but with the pandemic, it’s a nearly impossible task.  From transportation to school hallways to classrooms and other areas, each part of the school day has to be factored into school systems’ COVID-19 planning.

The good news is there is plenty of technology available to help with sanitizing, distancing, self-reporting, and contact tracing in school buildings.  These combined with enforced mask and distancing policies can certainly help. 

As we have seen, though, when you put large groups of people together, the chances are still good that there will be some level of outbreak, which is why contact tracing is probably one of the biggest keys.  In fact, 93% of parents say they want to know if their child has been in contact with a teacher, staff member, or other student who contracted COVID-19, according to a survey conducted by Bus Guardian.  Ironically, only about 67% support contact tracing.

Even though schools systems may have invested in all the right technologies and developed appropriate protocols for returning to school, there’s are still school buses to deal with.  Even with only 43% of parents planning on sending their kids on buses,  school systems have to carefully manage student transportation to minimize risk.

Bus Guardian, developed by CalAmp’s Synovia Solutions,  is an add-on to the company’s tablet-based student ridership and driver management solution.  The Student Ridership module is similar to an airplane boarding pass, alerting parents when students board and depart the bus.  Parents have to opt in for their students to be able to check on and off the bus with their school IDs or smartphones – which is really the challenge with any contact tracing solution.

The company says it does not track students or collect any data about them beyond what is already provided by the school systems for transportation purposes. 

Now, with the contact tracing component, school systems can easily track exposure on school buses and quickly notify parents to minimize spread.  Brightbill Transportation, a private school bus operators in Pennsylvania, has been using the Bus Guardian platform for several years, and has now added the contact tracing module to protect students, drivers, and their local communities during the pandemic.

“We are fortunate that we invested in this technology years ago to improve our safety and efficiency, which has now enabled us to transition quickly and easily to provide contact tracing for the communities we serve.  We know how important it will be to track our hygiene efforts to remain at the forefront of this new kind of student safety.”

Elisa Schubert, transportation manager, Brightbill Transportation

Bus Guardian’s contact tracing module helps support health and safety measures in three ways:

  • Contact Tracing For Students –  Know which students rode on the same bus with a potentially ill student and which students rode on the same bus later in the same day.  
  • Contact Tracing For Drivers – The table tracks daily and substitute drivers on each bus, route and run and creates instant reports with which students were on those buses. 
  • Hygiene Verification – Delivers simple and intuitive sanitation tracking and creates alerts and reports to show individual vehicle and fleet-wide hygiene status.

“We recognize that schools face enormous challenges as they create new plans for students to safely manage the coming school year and that student transportation will play a vital role.  . “We’re investing significant research and development to forge new technology solutions that can help schools manage these evolving challenges and make the fall return to school safer for all students and families.”

Bill Westerman, vice president, product management CalAmp