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Schools still hope more parents have a go at StopFinder
stopfinder app

Liberty County schools officials are still urging parents to sign up for the StopFinder app.

The app, according to school system leaders, allows parents to get real- time information on their children’s school bus, along with route and stop information. It allows them to get announcements and messages.

But parents have been slow to sign up for the app — of more than 8,100 invitations emailed to parents as of February, fewer than 1,700 accepted.

Currently, the schools are taking more than 13,000 students to school, combined morning and afternoon, and racking up more than 1 million miles a year. Another 13,000 students are on buses each school year for extracurricular activities, such as sports, band and JROTC. Those trips account for more than 120,000 miles annually.

The school system’s transportation department added eight buses for the current fiscal year, two of which were special-needs buses and six of which were 78-passenger buses. Four more buses — two for special needs students and two 78-passenger buses — have been ordered, which will bring the overall fleet’s total to 137.

School system director of operations Arnold Jackson pointed out that, with more than 50 new buses purchased since the start of 2018, the average age of a county school bus has dropped from 19 years old to nine years old.

Currently, the school system’s transportation department runs 63 regular education routes, 19 routes for special education and three routes for Horizons.

The school system also is working to alleviate its driver shortage, and has 76 drivers on its roster. Another six are in training. Officials listed bus driver recruitment, along with parents not signing up for the StopFinder app and last-minute call-outs from the current bus drivers, as challenges.

They did point to better on-time arrival rates at schools, up to 96% in December 2023 and at 90% in January and 92% in February. The 2022-23 school year average was 75%.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” school board chair Verdell Jones said.

Jackson also stressed that parents should keep their information updated in the PowerSchool portal. There are occasions when phone numbers or addresses change and parents don’t update that contact information. Parents also can help out by having their children at their assigned pickup point five minutes prior to the scheduled pick up time, and they can sign up to be bus drivers or bus monitors.

Another factor the school system transportation department has to battle is the increased traffic and congestion on the roads. Jones said that the Hinesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is undertaking traffic planning right now and has asked the school system to be a part of those discussions.

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