A Schenectady-based company is using a piece of technology to help schools and families while the coronavirus has temporarily suspended in-person classes in districts across the state and the country. And the company's original app is being used for more than it was originally intended — potentially helping millions of affected kids.
Transfinder, an app used to help create school bus routes serves two out of every three schools in New York state and 25 million students across the country. The company's newest app, Stopfinder, was created for two-way communication between school districts and parents.
With the coronavirus outbreak shutting down districts across the country, Transfinder decided to not only offer Stopfinder to its clients, but to any school district at no cost through the end of school year.
"We wanna help. This is where we talk about how we have the 'school bus yellow blood,'" said Antonio Civitella, president and CEO of Transfinder. "We recognize, we've been in this industry so many years. It's time for us to step up."
Civitella said Stopfinder can be used by schools to disseminate information about closings, delays, or potentially re-opening when the time comes, along with information about coursework and more.
"We always talk about communication, and at this time, you can't over communicate." Civitella said. "But it's important that when you are communicating like this, it's very accurate and it's precise."
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If districts choose to utilize the app, all it would require on a parents' end is downloading the app and registering. Then the school district can pull in all of your children's information and target the notifications by school, grade or even geographic area.
"And it's private, it's secure, and it's all stored so the advantage of Stopfinder is that it really eliminates any miscommunication," Civitella said.
While the company's original Transfinder app isn't free, Civitella said they're already hearing their clients are using it in unique ways to serve students.
One district is going to use it to have bus drivers deliver meals to anyone who qualifies for free and reduced lunch — minimizing contact and keeping large groups from gathering to get something to eat.
"Because maybe it's not a hundred percent of the population, it's just a section. Maybe it's just a certain part of town, they're building routes very fast and safe and efficient to get food to these kids and so this is a big deal," Civitella said. "They already own the school buses, they already have drivers, they have the infrastructure in place - and so this should ease a lot of parents' minds."
Transfinder said if you're interested in the service to visit their website, transfinder.com, or call 888-427-2403. If you have other ideas how either app can be used while schools are shut down they also would love to know them.