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Monroe County Schools Contract With Tyler for Bus Tech

In addition to new COVID-related policies, Monroe County Community School Corp. in Indiana approved buying new Versatrans software for bus drivers to route, report, monitor attendance and communicate with parents.

School Bus
(TNS) — The Monroe County Community School Corp. has taken steps to get more COVID-19 negative students back in classrooms quicker after being out with symptoms.

The district also approved upgrades to modernize its transportation-related technology, though the upgrades cannot take effect immediately.

During a special meeting of the MCCSC board on Tuesday, the adjustment to COVID-19 procedures and the bus technology contract were approved. The board also had a first reading of a bylaw on public participation at board meetings and approved amendments to that draft.

MCCSC now accepts rapid antigen tests as a route to return to school for a student who has called in absent from school or has been sent home from on-site school and/or school sponsored extra/co-curricular activities related to illness with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

Board member Erin Cooperman said this is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana Department of Health and American Academy for Pediatrics. The change was approved unanimously by board members present, which did not include Jacinda Townsend Gides.

The change was made in cooperation with pediatricians who serve most of MCCSC’s students, Cooperman said. Those pediatricians have already started offering the rapid antigen test for symptomatic students on days zero through five, she said.

“Access to PCR testing in our community has become a huge problem,” Cooperman said. “So this is not the only solution, but it is a piece of a puzzle to start, again, slowing transmission in our schools while allowing negative students to come back to school sooner.”

Board member Brandon Shurr asked about access to rapid antigen testing within school for students. MCCSC Superintendent Jeff Hauswald said the district does not currently have the capacity to do that and is short on nursing staff. He said that would be discussed during the MCCSC COVID-19 Monitoring and Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday. Those meetings aren’t open to the public.

The updated guidance is that before a student may return to school or school-related activities and events, one of the following must occur:

— Student completes a 10-day isolation period at home, OR

— Student is seen by a medical provider and has a Return to School statement, OR

— Student shows proof of a current negative rapid antigen COVID Test or PCR COVID test. Rapid Antigen tests must be performed by a health professional to be accepted; home test results are not accepted.

Documents were included in the agenda to further support and explain the change. To find them, go to MCCSC’s website, click the board of trustees tab and go to the agenda for the special meeting.

For close contacts, MCCSC follows a 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated students and staff who are asymptomatic close contacts. They can return to school on day 11 with enhanced precautions through day 14, but students may not return to athletics and extracurricular activities until day 15. More information can be found on MCCSC’s website.

The board members in attendance approved a five-year contract with Tyler Technologies, the district’s existing transportation software vendor. Board members Cooperman and Townsend Gides were not present for that vote.

Tim Pritchett, MCCSC director of technology, said the contract is for the purchase of several Versatrans software modules. This includes onboard GPS, software on iPads for bus personnel to use for real time routing, enhanced reporting and diagnostic tools, attendance monitoring software and updated parent communication tools.

“There are major delays in the delivery of some of this,” Hauswald said. “So this does not mean the technologies by which we deliver students to and from school will change next week. We will begin implementing these things on a soft rollout in the spring, so parents are going to have to continue to be patient with us.”

Pritchett said right now, the district has one out of about eight tools available through Versatrans. That means the district doesn’t have the ability to find out what time a bus actually gets to a stop compared with when it’s supposed to without asking the bus driver, he said.

Here Comes the Bus, the app currently in use that is supposed to track buses in real time, will be replaced. Here Comes the Bus is not from Versatrans, and it doesn’t interface well with Versatrans’ systems. For the time being, the district has open support tickets with Here Comes the Bus to address current issues, Pritchett said.

“What this is intended to do is fix those gaps and holes,” Pritchett said. “Currently, today, we really want to dig in and find out our route efficiency, our drive time, and due to the number of gaps and the lack of tools we have to do that, we’re not able to do so without drawing it out on paper.”

This contract shifts everything into the same suite, meaning it can work together.

Pritchett said right now when bus drivers pull up to a stop, they pull out a stack of paper that has a list of the kids’ names on it and the route stops.

“So if you think about Apple maps on your iPhone versus Rand McNally TripTik that we had 15 years ago with a CD-ROM that you print out, we are on the Rand McNally TripTik with the CD-ROM,” Pritchett said. “And I’m not saying that facetiously. We are printed paper, and if that route changes or there’s a construction delay, it’s scribble notes on the paper.”

Modernization of the transportation system was much needed and a long time coming, Pritchett said.

The total five-year cost is $875,700.58 and will be paid for using federal grant dollars from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund. The ESSER fund was established as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the CARES Act. MCCSC received more than $25 million total within three rounds of ESSER funding, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

During public comment at the start of the meeting, Ashlie Moore questioned how the contract would solve the transportation issue. She asked if the money would be better spent on giving drivers raises or hiring bonuses.

“I do think that there’s this concern that even if we have the technology, if we don’t have the drivers, it doesn’t matter how good the technology is because we don’t have the people to drive the buses,” board member April Hennessey said.

Hauswald said it’s difficult to increase salaries for existing staff with one-time grant funding because doing so would create a fiscal cliff in the future. Raises need to come out of certain funds within the district’s regular budget rather than a non-recurring grant.

Hauswald said the district makes an effort to spend funds judiciously and said reliable, efficient transportation services is a clear priority.

A policy was up for first reading about public participation at board meetings.

During the last regular board meeting, some speakers did not stop talking after their allowed three minutes were up. One speaker refused to wear a mask, leading to the board taking a recess and that person being escorted out of the meeting.

Board member Elizabeth Ruh made a motion to make five amendments to the policy that already had proposed changes indicated, which were discussed at length.

In the end, some of the key parts of the draft and approved adjustments were:

— Attendees must register their intention to participate in the public portion of the meeting by formal written request through the corporation’s website via a “Public Comments” tab. Participants must include the agenda item to which they are speaking and a summary of comment. Attendees can still provide a completed comment card to the superintendent’s assistant prior to the start of the meeting in person.

— If a speaker continues to provide public comment after being told to stop after three minutes, a recess of 15 minutes shall be called to allow for the speaker to be removed from the room. Should a second recess be required during public comments, public comments will be suspended for the remainder of the meeting.

— No participant may speak more than once during public comments.

— When the lack of public decorum interferes with the orderly conduct of the meeting, the presiding officer shall call for a recess or an adjournment to another time.

— Comments on anything — not just agenda items — may be emailed to for proper board independent review. No specific responses will be provided.

After 50 minutes of conversation, board members approved making amendments to the drafted policy. Townsend Gides wasn’t present for the vote and Martha Street abstained.

“I think you actually have given more public input permissions,” Hauswald said. “The only thing you have, in my opinion, solidified more firmly is if someone doesn’t follow the rules you recess and they have to leave. That’s my summary of this conversation.”

Board members can make a motion for further amendments before the policy is approved at the next regular board meeting.

During time for public comment at the special meeting, Moore said she and other parents have concerns about limiting public comments.

Michele Bucklin said being a member of a school board means representing parents. She said she would like the chance to make comments about things not on the agenda and said the people who haven’t abided by the rules at past meetings don’t represent her.

“Just remember that you’re speaking for all of us and you can’t speak for us unless you hear our voices,” Bucklin said.

Paul Farmer, Monroe County Education Association president, said the democratic process can be ugly, but voices need to be heard. He said he doesn’t punish an entire class for the behavior of one student and said Bloomington is a place that prides itself on allowing people to express concerns. Not allowing the community to voice opinions is not a good thing, he said.

The next regular board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Co-Lab, 553 E. Miller Drive.

@2021 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.