2017-05-18 / Front Page

New software will help manage school bus needs

A new school bus routing system will be implemented in Wilkes County and was discussed by the Board of Education at its most recent meeting. A dry run of a new software from Transfinder will open up a new program that is predicted to increase student safety, create routes that are more time-effective, as well as save on fuel.

“[The software] comes in two packets, one is Routefinder Pro, which is the heart of this whole thing, and Infofinder LE is the second package, which has unlimited licensing,” Transportation Director Ron Stephens said. “The primary reason for that particular package is, number one, parents can log in and see what bus their child would ride, and as well as that the teachers – this is the big one for us – can do field trip requests. We can automate the field trip requests so that the teacher can put the packet in, and that packet would still be rounded with the same approval process that we have now.”

The new program will likewise allow for the creation of bus route “zones,” and central bus stops for congested areas.

“Routefinder is an opportunity for us to manage our transportation needs, to manage the students and how we pick them up, and their schedules. It’s a big improvement from what we’ve got,” Stephens said. “Currently we have routes that are scattered all around, and they’re interlocked all throughout the city, and they’re overrunning each other’s routes, which is causing some confusion for the people, as well as for us.”

Stephens included, “We’ll have a combination [of bus stops and home pickups]. Some kids that are in a rural areas, obviously, we’ll stop at their driveway like we do now, but say we pull into a trailer park. We may have one stop at the back and one at the front of the trailer park.”

With exceptions to inclement weather, the system would revert to home pickups as opposed to having students walk to the designated stops. The program will also gather more information on individual morning drop-off sites, and afternoon pickup sites, along with alternate drop-off and pickup locations.

In other business, the board voted to accept two TeleMed machines to service each of the school campuses, which also come with a monthly maintenance fee of $250.

Previously, the board discussed the possibility of implementing this system – by becoming a Georgia Telehealth facility – in the district back in December, with the goal to eliminate student absences, as well as bring health care directly to the schools.

Telehealth is a virtual means of transmitting information for purposes of diagnosing, sending medical histories, and other health care practices. The schools will have a TeleMed kit, which comes with the proper medical equipment that plugs directly into a computer for check-ups. Via live telecommunication, the school nurse will be able to communicate with medical personnel off-site in order to evaluate problems in real-time. All of which, requires parental consent.

The Telehealth system would help with issues such as tests for illnesses, asthma checks, medicine refill appointments, basic acute care, ADHD care, and many others.

“At the time we were looking at getting one kit at the cost of $10- $15,000, and it would be a mobile kit that we could take from school to school. At the time the monthly maintenance cost was going to be $500, which we were sure that we could regroup with the host fee that we would get from the insurance company that the children are under,” Superintendent Dr. Rosemary Caddell said. “Since then we received really good news. Pulaski County got a rural health grant and they were able to get two full mobile kits, and they were able to get reduced rates on the maintenance at $250. When they got it they decided they didn’t have the man power to handle it, so they gave it back. Rural Health Georgia knew we were looking for it, so they called us up and said, ‘Would you like to have the two free kits, and reduced maintenance?’”

Thanks to the grant, the district will not have to pay for the maintenance of the health kits until January of 2019.

Additionally, the board approved the annual Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) plan.

This year’s middle school and high school handbooks were also approved, with an additional change to the WWCHS cell phone policy. The new policy will allow for cellphones to be carried inside student backpacks, however they must remain turned off during school hours. A limit on the usage of smartwatches will also be included in the handbook.

In her superintendent’s report, Dr. Caddell congratulated the WWCHS girls track team for bringing home the state championship.

She also congratulated Bobby Welch for being named the winner of the “Positive Athlete Award,” which is given through Positive Athletes USA, and recognizes students for their for participation in sports, school, and their communities. Welch was recognized not only as a positive athlete selection in Wilkes County, but as a state winner as well.

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