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GPS Tracking of LAUSD Buses: Good Idea, Flawed Execution, Parents Say

Bus drivers in the Los Angeles Unified School District also point to flaws in the app, which is designed to help parents track their children's whereabouts when riding to and from school.

A new GPS system for the Los Angeles Unified School District enables parents to track their children’s bus routes on the LAUSD app launched in May to share real-time updates and information about delays — but there have been glitches.

Several parents and bus drivers told LA School Report that the feature is often inaccurate, creating confusion in what can already be tough schedules for pickup and drop-off.

“I was looking yesterday and my daughter managed to get on the wrong bus, so I was able to track her from my own AirTag,” said a parent of an elementary school child who has a daily bus ride of up to an hour and 45 minutes. The parent asked to remain anonymous because, they said, speaking out about education issues in the past led to a confrontation with school officials.

“However, when I looked on the app just to see where her bus was, before I learned she got on the wrong bus, the app showed it was in Hollywood near Sunset, which was totally wrong,” the parent said.

Parents and guardians use several means to track students on the bus, including Apple AirTags, cellphones and the district’s GPS.

“It’s definitely helpful,” one parent said about LAUSD’s GPS feature, “but with today’s technology and with the school district’s budget, they can do better.”

Parents discussed bus delays on an LAUSD parent Facebook page as the school year started amid Tropical Storm Hilary, voicing their frustration with the GPS’ inaccuracies.

“Real-time tracking was not working on the app while my kids were riding the bus this past week, hoping it starts working at some point,” one parent wrote.

“I used the tracking system when it began last semester. It was 50 percent accurate. I’m not counting on it being any better this year,” another commented.

Los Angeles Unified handles an estimated 2,700 bus routes daily across 70,000 miles, carrying an estimated 43,000 students, a district spokesperson said.

The new bus tracking feature was unveiled as part of a slew of updates with the latest version of the LAUSD 3.0 app, available in English or Spanish, including viewing the school menu and reporting criminal or suspicious activity anonymously.

“I don’t know anyone whose GPS is running correctly,” said John Lewis, who has been driving an LAUSD bus for 30 years. “I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Lewis. “I have a new bus and it doesn’t work. But the thought is a great thought.”

LAUSD bus driver Lynniere Boyd-Peterson said the GPS is a good tool in theory, but she also has not seen it work accurately. She said parents sometimes blame drivers for delays in getting their children home by not sticking to the bus route.

“We have a lot of parents that sometimes will say things that are incorrect,” Boyd-Peterson said. “And when they do that, the GPS can prove where we’ve been. But if the GPS is not working properly, it’s really not proving the case.”

In an email to the LA School Report, a district spokesperson contested the reports of problems with the new GPS feature.

“Our systems currently indicate that the bus GPS functionality in the LAUSD App is operating at full capacity with no disruptions,” the spokesperson said. “The LAUSD App simply takes the GPS data from our buses and conveys that information through the Parent Portal.”

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