Columbiana schools hope software saves time, money

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

COLUMBIANA - New software from a New York-based company and global positioning systems (GPS) on school buses could save the Columbiana School District money and time in the long run, Superintendent Don Mook said this week.

Mook said he has been speaking with TransFinder employees the last few years and believes their software could be beneficial for the district.

The school bus routing software focuses on optimizing routes through the use of virtual maps that show bus stops, pick-up and drop-off zones in real time.

Mook said the district needs to save money on its transportation budget and believes the software will do that. The particular software package he and Treasurer Lori Posey have looked into costs $5,700, and provides maps for both Columbiana and Mahoning counties, he said.

Both maps are needed since the district spans the two counties, he added.

"We just think this will be a much more cost-effective way of setting up our routes," he said.

He explained the software will show where the district could change routes to save money, specifically, places where some routes may be overlapping.

The software would also show where some bus stops could be moved to that would be more cost-effective, he said.

"About 5 percent of our transportation budget could be saved annually from this, approximately," he said.

The district spends about $300,000 for transportation each year, Posey said.

Mook said the district has already saved money on transportation through its own fueling station on premises.

"I know we saved a significant amount of money by being able to pump our own fuel, order our own fuel. Now we would like to really work on our routes. I think we could provide some safety and some tracking as well," he said.

That safety and tracking would come through GPS. He believes the devices would be an investment, and explained that buses have been delayed by trains on more than one occasion, resulting in parents wondering where their children were because the bus had not arrived when it was scheduled to.

The devices would also come in handy in case athletic events last longer than anticipated.

"With GPS we could have instant knowledge. Where they are going, how they are going, how long the stops are, how long it would take them to get from point A to point B," he said.

The district currently has eight buses on regular daily routes.

Mook also said the TransFinder software is compatible with GPS, and for an additional cost could be synced into the devices.

The software on its own would also make it easier to change routes if a driver calls of sick and a substitute is not available, which is likely to happen since the district is currently lacking substitute drivers, he added.

In other matters, he praised administrators for the district's recent success.

Middle School Principal David Buzzard was commended for the building's School of Honor designation through the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

"He has done a tremendous job. This is year five for Mr. Buzzard and we appreciate everything he has done," Mook said.

The building has also earned the excellent with distinction designation twice during those years, he added.

Elementary and high school principals Kim Sharshan and Lance Hostetler were commended for meeting the ODE teaching standards at their buildings for the 2012-13 school year.