Norfolk councilwoman calls for GPS on school buses

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – You might be surprised to know all 7 major Hampton Roads cities have GPS tracking on public school buses; except one, Norfolk. But a councilwoman wants that to change.

Newport News has had GPS on buses since 2008. It costs about $55,000 a year on a five year lease, the city mechanics install them for all 335 buses. They also have a ‘”Here Comes the Bus” app, which lets parents know when the bus is around the corner, so their children don’t need to wait outside in rain or cold weather.

Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan, who is also a mom, wants GPS on the city’s buses now.

“Sometimes they are waiting three minutes, sometimes they are waiting 20 minutes. My sons’ bus comes at 6:08 in the morning. If it’s raining or snowing, it would be nice if he knew when it was going to come, so he could stay inside until the end, and not miss the bus. I know a student whose bus was 30-40 minutes late. The mom called the school, but the school couldn’t tell her where the bus was,” says Councilwoman McClellan.

Norfolk Public Schools says it doesn’t have the money and it’s not in the budget. The councilwoman says it’s worth what it costs.

“Let me leave you with this one thought, we have GPS on our trash trucks. We know where our trash is, we do not know where our kids are, and we need to fix that,” she says.

On the budget matter McClellan says, “For approximately $150,000, we could cover our 19,000 Norfolk public school students who are eligible to ride, and every parent could have an app on their phone for free telling them where exactly the bus is and more importantly where the children are.”

Newport News Public Schools Transportation Director Shay Coates calls the GPS a game changer.

“That’s what parents are calling for. They want to know where their kids are, so if you can’t tell them it makes it pretty hard to satisfy the customer,” says Coates.

Newport News Schools Data Analyzer John Payne tracks 335 buses, bus drivers and their speeds, where they go, how many miles they drive, and so much more because of the system.

“We know when they turn on the ignition, when they open the door, when they close the door, and we know it every 13 seconds. We know if the driver makes a harsh breaking event, whether they take a turn too hard, when they turn on their hazards,” says Payne.

Coates talks about GPS peace of mind, “I think they get piece of mind from the district stand point, it helps them with the operation, and more importantly peace of mind for the parents.”

10 On Your Side asked Coates if he were surprised to find out Norfolk does not have GPS on buses, “I am a little surprised by that, I just assumed everyone had the basic thing.”