2014-08-27 / Front Page

Schools introduce new technologies

Updates for 2014-15
by KEATON T. DEPRIEST Associate Editor


Ryan Griffin, left, and Mary Thompson are terminal managers with Student Transportation of America, a new busing company that was recently contracted by the Williamsville Schools. The buses are equipped with state-of-the-art cameras and GPS devices. Ryan Griffin, left, and Mary Thompson are terminal managers with Student Transportation of America, a new busing company that was recently contracted by the Williamsville Schools. The buses are equipped with state-of-the-art cameras and GPS devices. Williamsville and Amherst schools will be implementing new initiatives next week as the 2014-15 academic year begins.

While Williamsville is beginning a new contract with a bus transportation company, Amherst will be continuing its implementation of technology devices across the district.

Student Transportation of America is the Williamsville district’s newly contracted busing company, which will soon be operating from 850 Aero Drive near Rein Road in Cheektowaga.

The company will be busing students in a fleet of 2015 Blue Bird buses, which include storage areas that can be accessed on the lower panels of the vehicles — similar to coach-style buses.

Ryan Griffin, terminal manager with STA, said the company wants to be safe and reliable in student transportation. He said all of the buses include at least three cameras, which he said act as an additional measure to monitor student behavior or any incidents involving the buses.

“It’s a way of having another deterrent for students,” he said. “Also, schools can call to get clips of time to view any frames from any of the recordings. The footage can be used for anything from student behavior to reviewing a collision on the road.”

Griffin added that all of the buses are equipped with GPS devices to assist in route efficiency and to make sure all of the vehicles are running on time. He said the company and the drivers have been working hard to prepare for the new school year, particularly by doing test runs in the mornings and afternoons.

“The goal is to partner with Williamsville and really make sure that we get involved in the community,” Griffin said.

During the Williamsville School Board’s meeting on Aug. 12, Superintendent Scott Martzloff said parents will also be able to eventually use a bus GPS system to track the arrival and departure times of their child’s bus.

In addition to 70-passenger buses, STA has special needs busing, featuring accommodations for up to four wheelchairs on a bus. The special needs buses operate with a monitor and nurse aboard.

“The buses can even be used for field trips,” said Mary Thompson, who is also a terminal manager with STA. “We do our very best to accommodate students.”

In the Amherst schools, Superintendent Laura Chabe said the district recently included the use of Chromebooks tablets. Approximately 700 of the devices have been purchased to outfit each third-grade classroom with a set.

She added that the middle school and high school each received approximately 200 Chromebooks, allowing students to share the devices. Additionally, the district has honored more than 300 requests for iPads, and about 500 Chromebooks have been purchased to be used starting in September.

“Our intention is to systematically increase classrooms with a one-to-one student environment across the district,” Chabe said in a prepared statement.

Chabe also said the decisions to purchase and how to use the new technology devices were based on input from teachers, administrators, board members and technology specialists in the district with a focus on instructional delivery.

“Our focus continues to be on the delivery of high quality instruction aligned to an objective,” said Anthony Panella, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “Technology will significantly enhance our ability to actively engage our students and parents as partners in the success of all students.”

While students in the Williamsville district begin school on Tuesday, Sept. 2, Amherst schools begin the new year on Thursday, Sept. 4. Classes at Sweet Home Central begin Wednesday, Sept. 3.

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