Life just got a little easier for parents whose children ride the bus to school in the largely rural Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District.

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This year the district launched a new smart phone app that allows parents to know the exact location of their child’s bus at any given time. The app also will notify parents when the bus is a quarter-mile away from dropping off the child at home.

“It’s for the safety of our children and the peace of mind of our parents,” said Suzanne Ramirez, the district’s administrator of transportation. “Now we have instant communication on the location of busses that parents can access for their child’s bus.”

The free app is available for download on the Google Play and Apple iTunes stores. As of Tuesday more than 1,000 Los Fresnos parents had downloaded the app, Ramirez said. The app can also be accessed on computers at the website www.safestopapp.com

“It’s a secure app where the user can only see the location of their one bus,” Ramirez said. “The app automatically sends them a notification when the bus arrives a quarter-mile from their home.”

Ramirez said the district spent several years researching which would be the best app to get from among several on the market.

It seems sure to cut down on phone calls to the dispatching office to find out the location and on-time status of buses now that parents can access the information themselves using the app, she said.

Covering more than 400 square miles the Los Fresnos district is the largest geographically in Cameron County and second only to the Edinburg CISD in the Rio Grande Valley. To make sure all students arrive safely the district operates 130 buses.

“I love the idea of finding out where the bus is,” said Angie Coronado, a mother of students at Rancho Verde Elementary and Los Fresnos High School.

Ramirez said about 65 percent of the district’s students ride the bus, but at one campus it is even higher.

Nine buses serve Las Yescas Elementary in the far rural part of the county. About 95 percent of the school’s nearly 500 students ride the bus, she said.

Parents must create an account and enter the student identification numbers of their children.

The district said notifications on the app are automatic once students are registered. Parents will get notifications when the student carrying the bus card boards the bus, exits the bus and when the bus is a quarter-mile from home. They will also receive Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) when the bus is expected to reach their homes and other status updates.

Parents can track the bus location whether they are home or not.

The app does not change procedures for special-needs students and for students in kindergarten or pre-kindergarten. Those students must continue to be received by an adult 18 years or older when the bus arrives at home, as per district policy.

Future enhancements include the option to allow students to carry radio-frequency (RFID) bus cards with magnetic stripes that could be automatically detected within a few inches of the scanner located on the bus dashboard. The scanner could read the student’s RFID card and transmit the student’s location to the app that has been registered by the student’s parents or guardians.

Future plans also include the app providing notifications for buses bringing home students from after-school tutorials and for night and weekend athletic events.

glong@brownsvilleherald.com



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