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Tracking app lets Durham students avoid waiting at bus stop

Tired of braving the elements to wait for the school bus?

Durham Public Schools is encouraging parents to download “Here Comes the Bus,” a free app that allows them to avoid long waits at the bus stop.

Here Comes the Bus is a free app that allows parents to find out when school buses are about to arrive.

The app uses GPS tracking to estimate bus arrival times and send alerts to parents when their student’s bus is getting close. Parents who sign up using their student’s ID number can receive text or email notifications when the bus enters a certain radius from the bus stop or school. That makes it easier to avoid long waits, particularly in bad weather.

The Durham school system, which has been using the app since 2015, is encouraging parents who have not downloaded the app to give it a try now that schools are back in session.

Joe Harris Jr., assistant director of Transportation for Durham Public Schools, said the app provides flexibility to Durham parents with busy work schedules who cannot wait at the bus stop for extended periods of time.

“It helps with our parents that have to leave and go to work earlier than the bus arrives or before the bus drops off in the afternoons,” Harris said. “It can give them a sense of comfort.”

The app allows parents to set a radius around a bus when they will be notified.

Although the app requires a valid student ID number to access the maps, Harris said it does not track individual students’ locations for security purposes. So while parents receive alerts when the bus is coming or arriving, the app cannot indicate when their child gets on or off the bus.

The school system does not keep records of the number of students and parents who have downloaded the app. But parents have said they like the convenience.

Jen Meldrum, treasurer of the parent-teacher association at Forest View Elementary School and a parent to students in the first, fifth and eighth grades, said she has been using the app since it was first introduced in Durham.

“It’s just a great way to see real time where the bus is,” she said. “It takes away a lot of the guesswork.”

Meldrum said many other parents have reported using the app and that Forest View Elementary School’s parent-teacher association mentioned it in a recent newsletter to parents.

“It’s been very helpful I think for parents, she said. “It used to be that you could be waiting at the bus stop wondering why it was late, and you might have to call the school or the central office in Durham.”

Durham Public Schools previously contracted Synovia Solutions in 2013 to monitor its buses’ routes for efficiency. According to a 2013 resolution of Durham Board of County Commissioners, the county is slated to pay Synovia Solutions more than $75,000 this year for its services.

Several nearby school districts have also started offering the app this year, including Wake, Harnett and Granville counties.

The app is free on the App Store and Google Play for computers, smartphones and tablets.