Triad Community Unit School District #2, IL

Starting the New Year Off Right to Ensure Next School Year Starts Off Right Too

Triad Community Unit School District #2, IL

Time for a Tech Tune-Up?

If you asked Kevin McGraw Jr. and Jessica Warner what they do to start a new calendar year right, they’d tell you by focusing on the next school year.

While 2024 is still young, McGraw said he’s already putting in orders for new buses.

“I’m making sure we’re within budget, making vehicle purchases and starting to get everything prepped for next school year,” said McGraw, who is the transportation director at Triad Community Unit School District #2 in Illinois.

In addition, Warner is getting letters out to private and parochial schools now to determine what their transportation needs will be next year.

“At the beginning of the new year I do all the private and parochial letters and I start looking at next year. I start looking at those routes that aren’t doing what I want them to do,” said Warner, assistant transportation supervisor at Schalmont Central School in New York. In addition, she makes the rounds with elementary students, “a classroom at a time,” and goes over school bus safety.

Checklists created to keep you on task

These are just some of the regular routines transportation leaders have to start the new calendar year off right and ensure that next school year starts off right too. It ranges from routing – tweaking existing routes, building new routes and deleting outdated routes – to communications with district and building leaders, special education personnel, parents and more.

As you start thinking about the year ahead, here are some areas to consider:

  • Assess your technology. Is your department keeping up with the needs of your drivers, parents, building leaders and community? Are you still routing manually and are unaware of inefficiencies or trouble spots? Are your drivers still carrying physical route sheets? Are you still sending postcards with route information to parents and guardians?
  • Assess your fleet and resources. Are your buses, which can range from $130,000 to $400,000, being properly maintained? Do you have the parts and inventory needed to make timely repairs? Are your drivers' certifications up to date?
  • Assess your community. Do you have your finger on the pulse of your community? Do they want a parent app to track their children’s buses? Are they reading the communications you send to them? Do they feel they can reach you when they have a need or question and receive a timely response?

At Transfinder we have tools you can use today to help make your tomorrow and next school year even better. In our client-only portal called Transfinder Community are numerous checklists to help you so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

For example, in our “Preparing for a New School Year” checklist, you see some straight-forward items you will need to do, like:

  • Move all students up a grade as you plan for the new school year. (Transfinder’s Routefinder PLUS tool has a Rollover Wizard to handle this)
  • Import new students (and geocode them)
  • Manage geographic areas where students are not eligible for transportation
  • Find student schedules to assign one or more students to trips

That’s just a small sample of one checklist. You’ll find dozens of checklists and guides in our Transfinder Community created with you in mind.

Tools designed to help you work smarter, not harder

Is it time to get a driver app, like Wayfinder, which, beyond providing drivers with the turn-by-turn directions your routers carefully crafted, has become a great recruiting tool for new drivers and substitute drivers? Have you surveyed your parents to determine if there is a desire for a parent app, like the award-winning Stopfinder? You can survey all your parents or those in a select region on any topic using Transfinder’s free Formfinder solution imbedded in Routefinder PLUS.

Want to redirect a staff member's time from answering calls to handling more pressing needs? Viewfinder will reduce or eliminate calls into your office by equipping your building administrators with information at their fingertips about students' routes and other transportation information.

Safety starts in the garage

Transfinder believes routing is at the core of your transportation operation and perhaps the best place to start is with making sure your fleet is safe and the best place to get that assurance is by using the award-winning Servicefinder fleet maintenance tool. If you already have other routing products you are using and are locked in a multi-year contract, you can still utilize Servicefinder and get a taste of the industry’s leading customer service. Servicefinder is a standalone solution that will help you focus on your fleet and all the assets in your garage.

With Servicefinder you can:

  • Manage and maintain all assets and facilities
  • Streamline and centralize work orders and tasks for vehicles and equipment
  • Schedule preventative maintenance

Again, that is just a sample of the checklist. At the heart of your transportation operation is safety. The focus is typically on safe routes and safe stops. But if the vehicle those students are riding isn’t safe, you have a weak link in your chain.

One Day at a Time

If all these checklists and bullet points make you feel overwhelmed, don’t be. As McGraw said as he focuses on making improvements in his department, “I think you have to take it one day at a time, one day at a time. Work toward it every day. The biggest thing is to be organized.”

For the moment, put the checklists aside, and put just one item on your to-do list: Conduct a tune-up on our operation. If you don’t know where to start, Transfinder can assist with an assessment of your overall operation. In addition, take a Master Class on Finding Efficiencies that is available to any transportation leader in the industry.

For more information, email and put Tune-Up in the subject line or call 800.373.3609.