SPOKANE, Wash. — Getting children to school has always been a challenge, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. But a new rideshare app could soon change that for some Spokane families.
Spokane Public Schools recently approved a partnership with HopSkipDrive, a service dedicated to driving kids to school.
"In fact, that's exactly how we describe it, Uber for school children," said Lynda Morrison, a CareDriver with HopSkipDrive.
The service launched in February for some families in the Spokane Public School district.
The app matches schools and families with highly vetted drivers called CareDrivers, according to the service's CEO Joanna McFarland. Drivers are also put through a rigorous 15-point driver certification process and have five years of caregiving experience.
"It just opens up a whole other avenue for the parents to coordinate getting their kids to and from school without them actually having to do the driving," Morrison said.
Right now, Spokane Public Schools is deciding which students are eligible for the service, including students with special needs, those experiencing homelessness and students in the foster care system.
Rides are scheduled in advance and are tracked by GPS from pick up to drop off. Drivers wear bright orange shirts and have stickers on their cars. Students have a codeword only they know to be sure they have the right driver.
"The child knows that, that is a word that they have come up with with their care giver, with their schools and this is the right driver. The driver will ask another question to make sure they have the right student, so it's a two-factor authentication system," McFarland said.
"Which does make it a slightly different thing than Uber or Lyft which is more of a convenience for getting around town, these are your children, your most precious commodities," Morrison said.
Spokane Public Schools says the service will save the district money and help address transportation demands amid COVID-19 restrictions and a nationwide bus driver shortage.
"High school will be getting ready to go back and so we'll be able to use those buses for other transportation needs to get our high school students to and from school so it will open up that bus for that to happen," said Spokane Public Schools Director of Communications Sandra Jarrad.
Right now, the service is only open to certain students but HopSkipDrive hopes to be available to all students some time this spring.
HopSkipDrive is currently hiring in the Spokane area. Drivers make up to $32 an hour. Drivers must be at least 23 years old and have five years of care giving experience, with a good driving record. Applications information is available on HopSkipDrive's website.