AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFXG) - Some Richmond County parents say relying on an app to tell them where their student's bus is has gotten them nowhere.

"It's scary. As a parent, your worst nightmare is not knowing where your child is." Several times since moving to Richmond County this school year, DJ Bailey's nightmare has been his reality.

"I'll call the school, they don't know where my child is. I'll call the department of transportation, they don't know where the bus is. It's a mess," he explains.

Richmond County School System has implemented StopFinder, an app that is supposed to allow parents to track busses, see changes to the route, and receive notifications if the bus is not running on schedule. Bailey says it doesn't work that way at all.

"It doesn't seem like there's a functionality where you can see these things in real time. It's more or less of a baseline." Bailey demonstrated the app for reference in his interview with FOX54. It shows his daughter's name, the cross streets of her assigned bus stop, and the expected drop-off and pick-up times, down to the minute.

Bailey says those times do not change from day to day in the app, even though they're rarely accurate, even within a half-hour, in actuality.

A map, which, according to the StopFinder website, should be interactive, showing the bus's actual GPS location, does not update either. One of the app's other advertised features is sending notifications of "alert regions," meaning Bailey would know when the bus enters his neighborhood, allowing him to walk to the bus stop to greet his child.

Instead, he waits, often for a long time.

“We could be here 30-45 minutes early and still be late. We could be here 30-45 minutes late and still be early. It’s a crapshoot every single day,” he explains.

His wife, Lindsey, says she has given up on tracking the school bus or expecting it to be on time. She drops their daughter off at school on her way to work. In the afternoons, this single-vehicle family just can't do that. "Jobs can be flexible," she says, "until it becomes an everyday problem."

DJ Bailey agrees, saying he has a hard time coordinating his lunch breaks to get his child off the bus, not knowing when she'll be at the bus stop.

The Baileys say they have seen as many as four different drivers in any given week driving their child's school bus; DJ surmises this, and each driver's preferred way to drive the route, contributes to the variation in bus stop times.

“The route is the route, and it should not be altered in any direction," he says. "You should not be able to choose to run the route backwards, sideways, from the middle to the back. It should run the way it’s designed, and it’s designed that way for a reason.”

Lindsey says the issues have caused distress for their 7-year-old child.

"She gets upset. The bus takes her back to school and she's wondering why her daddy wasn't there to pick her up [at the bus stop]. He was there...just not at the right time. A 7-year-old, she's smart, but she can't understand that. It can take her a couple of days to get back to thinking it's going to be alright."

While FOX54 has not yet discovered how much the investment into the StopFinder app was, we did hear from Richmond County Schools, who provided the following statement:

"As we continue to our work through our bus driver shortage, the Richmond County School System has open routes each day that have a substitute driver and that does not include when the remaining drivers are ill and unable to come to work.  

 The Stopfinder Bus Tracking app tracks dedicated drivers and their buses on assigned routes. Parents who download the app and create a profile are able to track their child’s bus."

FOX54 asked for clarification on if this means the app does not work to full functionality when substitute drivers are on the bus. That question went unanswered.

 

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