All South Orange-Maplewood School District buses are now equipped with GPS devices or systems, and the school district has also created separate instant messaging lists for each bus route.
Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Ficarra announced the news at the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education’s monthly meeting on February 25.
Ficarra said that, not only will the district be able to track and locate buses in real time, but, “We can send out individual messages to each bus route.” Ficarra thanked SOMSD Business Administrator Paul Roth and Director of Information Technology Keith Bonds for the “yeomen’s job” they performed in creating the lists.
After a snowstorm stranded children on school buses for hours in South Orange and Maplewood (and paralyzed travel throughout the region) on November 15, 2018, the Board of Education approved two resolutions in December to purchase GPS systems and equipment for both its in-house buses and its contracted buses (see the resolutions attached below).
The district and Ficarra came under fire after the November 15 storm. One father took to the microphone at the November 18 BOE meeting to report that his six-year-old was stuck on a stranded school bus for three hours before being dropped off far from home and released to a stranger.
“The bus was a nightmare, kids were scared, crying, jumping around the bus and wetting themselves because their requests to go to the bathroom were ignored,” said the father. “My son was dumped out at a random location more than half a mile from his [bus] stop. He had no idea where to go and when a stranger said they would take him, he was given to that stranger…he thought he had been kidnapped.”
Acknowledging that climate change may make events like Winter Storm Avery the “new normal,” SOMSD Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Ficarra said in December that the district is planning for more such emergencies. (Interestingly, the handling of a late-decision early dismissal on January 30 was the topic of an insubordination discussion and vote regarding Tuscan Principal Malikah Majeed at the February BOE meting.)
The GPS resolutions approved in December 2018:
- the purchase and installation of GPS systems for district buses from SEON Systems for $7,452; and
- an agreement with Verizon for a GPS Fleet Management System which includes 25 GPS devices with unlimited push to talk (PTT) for a monthly cost of $48.99 per device for contractor buses.
Read more here:
South Orange-Maplewood District Purchasing GPS Devices & Systems for Buses — December 18, 2018
Ficarra: Paralyzing Snow Storm Might Be ‘The New Normal’ — November 19, 2018
UPDATES: Treacherous Snowy Roads Shut Down Maplewood and South Orange — November 15, 2018