Originally created 05/27/05

Board OKs upgrade of mapping software



When Dewayne Porter took the reins of the Columbia County School System transportation department two months ago, he knew he wanted a more efficient means of mapping the bus routes.

School board members granted Mr. Porter's wish Tuesday when they approved a 2005-06 budget that included $19,500 to purchase an upgrade to the transportation department's EduLog (Education Logistics) software.

"Without getting too technical, when our county grows and adds a subdivision, we have to go in and manually insert that into our database and draw in that addition to our map," Mr. Porter said. "The upgrade that I requested in the budget will allow us to use (Global Positioning System) coordinates and will do everything automatically."

The new transportation director, who previously served as the head of school transportation in Franklin County, Ga., compared his department's current mapping system with a 10-year-old map of Evans and Martinez. Considering how much the area has changed in that time, people using that map would have difficulty finding their way around, Mr. Porter said.

"The primary purpose is to give us a legitimate up-to-date route," he said. "If we don't have that, it's like not having the whole story. If you don't have a legitimate up-to-date map, then the routing system that you use can't be used to its fullest capacity."

The EduLog software will help him better predict pupils' busing needs in the growing county, Mr. Porter said.

The software might also aid Mr. Porter and his staff in a new survey of bus routes, which could mean more state money.

The state Department of Education gives Columbia County $651.08 a month per driver for 107 of its bus routes. In the 2004-05 school year, the school system ran 157 routes.

After a survey is completed and state officials agree that more routes are needed, they will provide funds for those routes.

School transportation officials last conducted a survey in 1996.

"We're working on a state survey now as a funding measure," Mr. Porter said. "I've only been here about two months, and it's a project we're getting started on now and we're going to try to complete within a fair amount of time, hopefully by the end of June or first of July."

Updating the EduLog software is also a necessary step to installing GPS trackers on each of the buses. If the board approves what could be a pricey upgrade, Mr. Porter wants to enable all of the system's buses with GPS tracking devices in three years. The upgrade would allow school officials to know the whereabouts of any school bus at any given time.

"Even if the board doesn't elect to go to the GPS tracking of the buses, this step is necessary by itself," Mr. Porter said. "It will benefit us without ever adding to it. If we wanted to add to it, we have to have this upgrade in order to do that."

Reach Donnie Fetter at 868-1222, ext. 113, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

At a glance

A $19,500 software upgrade to the EduLog system of the Columbia County School System transportation department will enable officials to instantly update maps of bus routes. The software reduces the number of personnel hours needed to manually update route maps and is a first step toward installing Global Positioning System trackers on school buses.