Sequoia Capital’s Seven Questions With Ritu Narayan

Zum has the privilege of working closely with the team at Sequoia Capital since early on in our history — with the well known and respected venture capital firm investing in Zum as part of our Series A, B and C rounds. 

They’ve recently published an interview with Zum Founder and CEO Ritu Narayan here as part of their newsletter series “Seven Questions with…” where they interview startup founders about advice they have received or learned over the years.

Please check it out and let us know what you think.



Zūm in TechCrunch and Forbes today

Our partnership with Autogrid was covered in TechCrunch and Forbes today. Check out the news below:

TechCrunch: Zūm wants to use its electric school buses to send power back to the electrical grid

Forbes: Electric Yellow Schoolbus Will Try To Make Vehicle To Grid Power Work

We’re thrilled to be innovating to make school transportation more equitable, sustainable, and reliable for kids, parents and schools. If you want to learn more about our sustainability efforts please click here.

Exciting times ahead!


Zūm and AutoGrid Partner to Deploy 10K Electric School Buses to Create 1 Gigawatt of Flexible Capacity for the Grid

We’re thrilled to announce today we’ve partnered with AutoGrid to pilot a program with Zūm’s electric buses and AutoGrid’s Virtual Power Plant technology (VPP).

Please see our press release here. A brief recap follows below:

  • Our partnership will help accelerate adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in an antiquated school transportation system that previously relied on emission-intensive diesel yellow buses. 

  • Together, we’ll deploy 10,000 electric school buses to create over 1 Gigawatt of flexible capacity — the equivalent of powering more than one million homes for one to four hours — when the electricity grid is overloaded.

  • This will not only help lower the cost of energy for school districts, but also help lower the overall cost of operating the grid. It will also help in removing expensive and pollutive “peaker” plants that are disproportionately located in disadvantaged communities.

  • When fully deployed, this is expected to be one of the largest VPPs in the world.

  • Every EV bus saves 11 tons of carbon emissions per year, which will help school districts make progress on their carbon footprint goals.

  • If deployed over the 500,000 yellow school buses transporting over 27 million students every day, the transition to EVs for the school transportation sector can play a critical role in helping communities improve air quality and environmental health for student passengers and area residents.

  • The Biden Administration’s proposed $25 billion investment in the electrification of school buses as part of the infrastructure bill provides even more acceleration for a clean future.

Exciting times ahead as we reimagine the future of school transportation. Stay tuned for much more to come!


Saving The Extra Mile

It should come as no surprise a company founded on challenging industry conventions would explain itself a bit unconventionally. Here at Zūm, we’re constantly questioning traditional ways of doing things as we reimagine better alternatives. So it’s only natural our film starts by questioning the old adage ‘going the extra mile’. We reflected on this expression and asked ourselves if it still made sense in today’s world. After all, hard work and innovation should yield less miles, not more. Less toxic fumes polluting our planet. And less time and money spent unnecessarily getting kids to and from school through outdated modes of student transportation. And in-keeping with our approach of bucking established norms, we decided to put our story in the hands of a teenage soon-to-be star who describes the benefits of Zūm from a students’ perspective.

Let’s make saving the extra mile a better measure of hard work. It’s certainly what we do at Zūm. Check out our video below and reach out if you’d like to learn more.


Zūm is What’s Next

Axios features Zūm and the shift to working directly with school districts in its latest weekly newsletter.

Read the newsletter here.


Female Disruptors: Zum CEO Ritu Narayan featured by Authority Magazine

Our Founder and CEO, Ritu Narayan, spoke with Authority Magazine about her road to becoming a female disruptor and the advice and guidance she received along the way. 

Read the full article here.


Launching Our Comprehensive Student Transportation Service

By Ritu Narayan

As the 2020 – 2021 school year comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on what this unique year has meant for kids, parents, teachers, schools and the education system as a whole. Students and teachers have spent much of the year away from the classroom, learning and teaching virtually, making this a digital inflection point and a once in a generation opportunity to reimagine the system as we know it. It starts the minute the kids walk out their front door and doesn’t end until they are safely back at home. 

Student transportation is the largest mass transit system in the U.S., yet it’s an antiquated model — in desperate need of an overhaul. The 80-year-old ‘one bus fits all’ system doesn’t work for today’s families, nor today’s needs. 

Today we’re thrilled to introduce Zūm’s fully integrated, real time platform for student transportation purpose-built for the needs of kids and the expectations of their families. Our new comprehensive service for student transportation is now available to schools and districts nationwide.

We’ve been on a mission to reimagine student transportation for some time, and have spent countless hours partnering with districts, drivers, parents, and students to create a holistic solution that meets the collective needs of all stakeholders. The result is a fundamentally new way to transport students safely, reliably, and sustainably with increased visibility and personalized care. 

We launched Zūm to modernize school transportation, in service of solving real problems for parents and their kids. It was born out of a very personal challenge of getting my two children to and from school and other activities, while working a demanding, full-time job. We know this challenge is felt universally and generationally, and it’s what inspires us to come to work every day — to continuously raise the bar for student transportation, drive positive change in communities, and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

Simplifying the system for districts 

The new platform marks a significant change in our model. One that addresses systemic shifts that need to happen in operations for school districts, who can now rely on Zūm as an end-to-end resource to manage daily operations, track and plan vehicle use and driver profiles, and analyze performance and service data. Our service reduces costs for districts by deploying the best type of vehicle for each route including buses, cars, and vans. This multi-vehicle approach helps solve current industry-wide challenges like schedule, unpredictability and vehicle underutilization. 

The range of options we provide, including electric vehicles of all sizes, also reduces student commute times. And when coupled with our marketplace, the result is greater in-fleet efficiency and optimization.

Holistic support for drivers

With Zūm, every driver has access to an app, available on mobile and tablet, that provides real-time route updates, personalized information on every student’s needs, and the ability to report and resolve issues in real time. Because the entire platform is connected in the cloud, the real time visibility extends to district operations and families. This means more personalized care for every student, faster service, and quick resolution for any issues. 

Visibility and control for families

A cornerstone of our service is direct communication with families. The Zūm mobile app provides ongoing visibility into route updates, a child’s location, and the driver’s profile. Families can also use the app to share changes in schedule or pickup location, preferences, and feedback, as well as speak with the Zūm team directly at any time. More transparency, more control and better communication at every step in the process means families can worry less about how their kids are getting to and from school. This emphasis on personalized service and care is especially important for families where a child has a disability or special needs. 

Meeting the sustainability needs of tomorrow

As we look at ways we can bring positive changes to communities, an important area we’ve identified is addressing our industry’s impact on the environment. Sustainability is a core tenent of our approach and we’re committed to helping districts address the challenges imposed by current internal combustion engine bussing. Our multi-modal approach and cloud-based technology will make it possible to drive widespread adoption of electric buses, move toward zero-emission student transportation, and positively impact the planet. 

Solving the transportation dilemma for districts larger and small

This isn’t simply a vision for Zūm. These changes are happening today. The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is one of the first to adopt district-wide Zūm technology for all their transportation needs. OUSD started using Zūm when its students returned to the classroom this Spring and is already experiencing the benefits. 

Seventy percent of OUSD’s students using its transportation system previously spent more than one hour on a bus traveling to school each way, which has dropped to just 3% since Zūm implemented new, flexible routes. Inefficient routes led to long travel times for students and unexpected delays, which had a trickle-down impact across the district and community. For example, teachers have to slow down an entire class when a group of students are late, parents must juggle irregular drop off and pick up times, and drivers face inconsistent schedules.

Zūm’s safe and modern service has led to a significant increase in on-time arrivals, shorter student ride times, and reduced customer support calls.

“Transportation is a massive expense for our school district, and we needed a better solution that would provide enhanced safety and care, create driver efficiencies, and enable visibility into day-to-day operations with a more modern approach,” said Kimberly Raney, Executive Director of Transportation and Logistics at Oakland Unified School District. “Partnering with Zūm, allows OUSD to save thousands of hours of travel time for students, and increase visibility into our operations for parents, students, teachers, and administrators.” 

Zūm has been driving the industry forward since 2015 when we first launched to provide alternative transportation options for families. Throughout our journey, we discovered that solving the problem required a more holistic approach to the entire system. This is a big challenge and we see a huge opportunity to impact real change — not only for parents and students, but across the entire school transportation ecosystem. Today Zūm is defining a new era of safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable transportation, built for the students, parents, drivers, and districts who need it most.

As we look ahead to the next school year, we know students and parents have a lot on their minds. We’re here to take the stress out of a key part of it — getting kids to and from school. For parents and communities interested in learning more about Zūm, or if you’d like to join our team as we reimagine student transportation, visit us at If you are a school district planning for your students to return to campus, we’d love to talk. Reach out to us at 1-855-RIDEZUM.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm


COVID-19 Ultimate Guide to Student Transportation Post Pandemic

Nothing is more important to Zūm than the health and safety of students and drivers. Zūm has created the Ultimate Guide to support school district administrators, industry partners, and community leaders responsible for student transportation and the safe reopening of schools. 

To protect students, drivers, and community stakeholders during the pandemic, Zūm has enhanced our safety procedures based on CDC recommendations, local guidelines, and advice from public health experts. Zūm has also added new tools and capabilities within the Zūm platform to optimize, plan, manage, and monitor student transportation during this uncertain period. Platform enhancements include Dynamic Route Planning, Contact Tracing, and Health and Safety Certifications, among other capabilities designed to promote social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The Ultimate Guide not only outlines Zūm’s commitments but also includes links to relevant webinars, public health research, and valuable resources such as communication toolkits and sample district safety plans. The Ultimate Guide provides information to guide school and district administrators, parents, and community leaders as they plan for reopening schools post pandemic. 

We will be updating the Ultimate Guide on a regular basis with links to new resources, recent webinars, and community guidelines developed in partnership with experts across the education and public health sectors. If you have questions, suggestions or additional resources to contribute, please email us at Each week, the most recent updates to the Ultimate Guide will be highlighted and posted at the top of their respective section.

Table of Contents

1. Zūm Back-to-School Recommendations

  • Planning for Reopening – Practices
  • Planning for Reopening – Strategic Considerations
  • Planning for Reopening – Scheduling & Procedures
  • Using the Zūm Platform to Plan for Back to School

2. Zūm Webinars

Updated 7/24/2020

  • Upcoming
  • Past Webinars
  • Webinar Feedback Survey

3. Deep Dives

4. State Plans For Reopening & Additional Resources

5. Online Resources

6. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources

Added 7/24/2020

1. Zūm Back-to-School Recommendations

Planning for Reopening – Practices
  • Over communicate by default
  • Connect with others
  • Make time for brainstorming and creativity
  • Align with the district and department specific goals
  • Focus on one thing at a time
Planning for Reopening – Strategic Considerations
  • Crowding in the classrooms
  • Crowding in the playgrounds
  • Crowding in the transportation
  • Crowding in cafeterias
Planning for Reopening – Scheduling & Procedures 
  • Create A/B schedules, morning and afternoon shifts or alternating days of the week, to reduce student class sizes and promote social distancing 
  • Identify multiple pick up and drop off locations across different areas of the campus to avoid overcrowding near pickup and drop off zones
  • Check students temperature before students board the vehicle 
  • Require drivers and students (or the students’ parents / guardians) to certify their health status by answering a series of simple questions before each ride
  • Ensure proper use of PPE during each ride 
  • Distribute hand sanitizer for use by students, drivers, teachers, and other school administrators
  • Place hand sanitizing stations around campus, especially in high traffic areas
  • Mandate temperature checks for every person entering school grounds
  • Place a plastic barrier in vehicles to separate the driver and backseat passengers 
  • Require all students to wipe down their backpacks and any personal items before entering the classroom 
  • Keep windows slightly open in the vehicle when possible while students are riding
  • Require students to eat in classrooms to promote social distancing and avoid overcrowding in the cafeteria
  • Encourage students to remain six feet apart from each other during recess and other activities
Using the Zūm Platform to Plan for Back to School

Zūm has enhanced our proprietary technology platform with tools for multi-scenario planning and dynamic route creation to help guide schools through this uncertain time with:

  • Dynamic Route Planning – Allows schools to dynamically create or update routing and save districts hours of time as schools transition to A/B schedules or staggered bell times in order to support social distancing and smaller class sizes. 
  • Contact Tracing – Helps districts monitor contact for any student or driver while taking a ride on the Zūm platform, and use in-app messaging to quickly and easily notify school administrators and students’ parents or guardians regarding potential exposure to COVID-19.  
  • Health & Safety Certifications Enables schools to record and report drivers’ and riders’ commitments that to the best of their knowledge they are asymptomatic and have not been exposed to COVID-19 prior to service. 
  • Safe Seating – Designed for school districts to manage routing, customize vehicle capacity requirements, and assign safe student seating with riders seated far enough apart to maintain social distancing.
  • Student Specific Instructions – Designed to protect the health and safety of students, especially our most vulnerable students, by documenting and communicating any specific instructions provided by district administrators and parents in order to help drivers understand and meet students’ individual needs.
  • App Based Reminders – Easy Zūm app based reminders and tracking the use of face masks and personal protective equipment by both rides and drivers as well as sanitization of surfaces in the vehicle before and after every ride.
  • Scheduling and Communication Tools – These tools automatically adjust pickup/dropoff times and locations within a campus to minimize crowding post-COVID-19.

2. Zūm Webinars

Past Webinars

Updated 7/24/2020



Date: July 22, 2020 from 10:00 – 11:00 am PT (Pacific Time)
❒ Scott Heinze, School Board President, Tacoma Public Schools
❒ Greg Benner, Ph.D., O’Sullivan Professor at University of Alabama, and former Executive Director of Center for Strong Schools, University of Washington Tacoma
❒ Dawn Rains, Chief Policy and Strategy Officer, Treehouse
❒ Phillip Potter, Ph.D., Founder, Everywhere Education

Resources Shared:

Live Webinar Recording

Slide Deck

Webinar 2

[6/24/2020] – Stronger Together: Cross District Collaboration Post Pandemic

Date: June 24, 2020 from 10:00 – 11:00 am PT (Pacific Time)
❒ Dave Marken, Ed.D. – Superintendent of Schools at Dublin Unified School District
❒ Jody Miller, M.Ed., BCBA – Head of Esther B. Clark Schools at the Children’s Health Council


Slide Deck

Webinar 1

[5/27/2020] – Safety & Social Distancing: Student Transportation Post Pandemic

Date: May 27, 2020 from 10:00 – 11:00 am PT (Pacific Time)
❒ Kimberly Raney – Executive Director of Transportation & Logistics at Oakland Unified School District
❒ Liz Sanchez – Chief Operating Officer & SVP at National Express LLC
❒ Ritu Narayan – Founder & CEO at Zūm Services


Slide Deck

Webinar Feedback Survey

We would love to hear your feedback on past webinars and any suggestions or questions for upcoming webinars. Please complete the webinar feedback survey below. 

3. Deep Dives

Zūm’s Safety and Social Distancing Plan: Student Transportation During COVID-19

Plan de Seguridad & Distanciamiento Social: Transporte de estudiantes durante COVID-19

CDC Schools and Child Care programs 
CDC Social Media Toolkit
COVID-19 Videos

4. State Plans For Reopening & Additional Resources


[CA School Board Association] Governor and Legislature reach budget deal sparing cuts; details slow to emerge
Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature struck a budget deal Monday that reportedly preserves K–12 funding in the short term and relies heavily on deferrals to help the state close its $54 billion shortfall.

[CA Department of Education] Coronavirus Response and School Reopening Guidance
This guidance was created through the statewide reopening schools task force that fostered a collaborative process for our educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices. Also informed by the technical assistance and advice of many health and safety organizations including the Centers for Disease Control, California Department of Public Health, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the intent of this document is to be a guide for the local discussion on safely reopening schools.


[CO Department of Education] Planning the 2020-21 School Year
As the situation evolves, the CO Department of Education will continue to gather feedback, add resources, and expand on these considerations to help readers think through these complicated times. This toolkit is continually updated. In each new update, this area will note key additions or changes since the prior version.


[KY Department of Education] Reopening Guidance
The department provides resources and guidance to Kentucky’s public schools and districts as they reopen schools in the wake of COVID-19.

[Kentucky Teacher Publication] KDE releases guidance on alternative learning strategies for reopening schools | Kentucky Teacher
The Kentucky Department of Education released guidance on June 8 on ways to safely structure instruction and learning when schools reopen in the fall.


[IL State Board of Education] 2020-2021 School Year Transition Joint Guidance
This document is Part Three of the Transition Advisory Workgroup’s recommendations for transitioning to in-person instruction. This document has been developed in partnership with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). 

[IL State Board of Education] COVID-19 Resources
SBE is working in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to ensure we are providing the most current resources and guidance to support Illinois education communities regarding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.


[TX Education Agency] COVID-19 Resources
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) continues to work with the Office of the Governor, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to coordinate and plan the state’s response to COVID-19. TEA’s role in these efforts is to help coordinate the flow of information from the state to districts, help districts solve problems, and provide guidance that will aid in districts’ decision-making. TEA does not have the general authority to close schools for matters related to health. This authority lies with the local health authority, DSHS, and the Governor of Texas.


[WA Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction] COVID-19 Information
OSPI is committed to providing ongoing guidance and resources as we experience this unprecedented situation together. The most current guidance and resources are provided below.

5. Online Resources

[Education Next] Toward Reopening: What Will School Look Like this Fall?

With the pandemic-impacted spring semester wrapped up across the country, the focus is now on the fall, when districts will need to translate public health guidance from organizations like the Centers for Disease Control into local implementation to reopen schools.

[School Superintendents Association] Guidelines For Reopening Schools

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the nation’s premier organization representing and supporting superintendents and other public school district leaders, is pleased to release today a consensus-driven set of guidelines for reopening schools effectively in the COVID-19 environment.

[Learning Policy Institute] Reopening Schools in the Context of COVID-19: Guidelines From Other Countries
Summary of health and safety practices during the COVID-19 pandemic in China, Denmark, Norway, Singapore, and Taiwan.

[School Transportation News] No ‘Easy Button’ Available to Student Transporters in Response to Coronavirus
As more state guidance becomes available and some school districts start transporting students again for summer school, health experts express concern regarding school transportation operations while also providing potential solutions going forward.

[Journal of Pediatrics] Reopening Schools Safely: The Case for Collaboration, Constructive Disruption of Pre-COVID Expectations, and Creative Solutions
Medical journal publication describing methods for a safe return to school.

[Center for Health Security] Filling in the Blanks: National Research Needs to Guide Decisions about Reopening Schools in the United States
This report focuses primarily on research needed to improve the evidence base relating to children, teachers, and other staff in daycare and in schools serving pre-K through 12th grade.

[National Association of School Nurses] Coronavirus Disease 2019 Resources
Resource guide put out by the National Association of School Nurses including relevant information about the CDC response and working with other groups to provide resources to school nurses.

[School Transportation News] Rethinking School Startup for Students with Special Needs
Post-pandemic brings new realities, problem-solving to the issues of mandated transportation for the most vulnerable student population.

[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] Coronavirus Information Center
Resources for understanding how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 and what to do if you become infected.

[World Health Organization] Advice to the Public
World Health Organization’s guide to protecting yourself and others from the spread COVID-19.

[EPA] Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2
Environmental Protection Agency’s list of disinfectants for use against COVID19.

[CARES Act & GEER Funding Resources] ExcelinEd Resource Page
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the U.S. Department of Education made available almost $3 billion for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER). This page details ways to leverage this funding.

[Bay Area Metro] Study: Opening car window can prevent COVID-19 transmission
As restrictions begin to ease in the Bay Area, a new Harvard-led study suggests opening a car window slightly can help keep COVID-19 from spreading in vehicles.

[NY Times] In Denmark, the Rarest of Sights: Classrooms Full of Students
Danish elementary schools have become the first in Europe to reopen after shutting down for the coronavirus. Our reporter visited one in southern Denmark, which could become a template for a post-lockdown world.

[Insider] How 6 countries are opening up schools again, with temperature checks, outdoor classes, and spaced out desks
In a handful of countries, where coronavirus risks have declined, some schools are beginning to open their doors to students.

[The Guardian] Split classes, outdoor lessons: what Denmark can teach England about reopening schools after Covid-19
Danish transition out of lockdown has become the go-to model for Boris Johnson’s government.

[Ed Trust] 10 Questions for Equity Advocates to Ask About Distance Learning
The Education Trust and Digital Promise have put together a guide to some of the biggest challenges around the broad category of equity, complete with steps for identifying issues and taking concrete steps to address them.

Cloth Face Coverings for Children
Did you know that children under age 2 should not wear cloth face masks? Learn the facts, including when and where children older than age 2 should wear them.

Countering COVID-19 Stigma and Racism
Though COVID-19 initially began spreading in China, it’s important that our children understand the disease is linked to a geographic location — not to a race or nationality. The virus offers an opportunity to avoid stereotypes and instead model acceptance and compassion.

6. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources

Added 7/24/2020

CASEL SEL Roadmap for Reopening Schools – As educators across the country prepare to welcome students and adults back to school, CASEL recently released Reunite, Renew, and Thrive: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Roadmap for Reopening School. CASEL designed the roadmap to support school leadership teams in planning the transition back to school, whether in a physical or distance learning environment. 


Academic and Lifetime Outcomes:

Health Outcomes:

Student Assessment:

Classroom Instruction:

Teacher Professional Development:


Black Lives Matter

I am writing this post to assert why I believe — All Lives Matter but Black Lives Matter First and they matter now – not tomorrow, not after the November ballot.

As an immigrant from India over two decades ago, my desire to come to the U.S. was driven by a few distinct images – one being astronauts breaking the limits of space and another of the Statue of Liberty – a land where it seemed anything was possible for everyone. As a brown woman, immigrant, and entrepreneur, I thought I knew first hand what discrimination means and feels like but the brutal killing of George Floyd and ensuing protests has changed my perception. By no means can my struggles be compared to what Black men and women in our community experience each day. I have not lived the fear of losing a dear one, every time they step out of the house. We are talking about ‘Systemic Racism and Brutality’ and not just about bias against black people in the United States, where one needs a poster or people have to gather during a pandemic to say ‘Our lives matter’. It is for this basic reason that I believe Black Lives Matter first and foremost.

My company, Zūm, is ultimately rooted in a dream for societal progress by creating unlimited possibilities for our next generation. We provide safe and reliable rides for our children on our technology platform. We primarily serve public schools. The core of what we do is consciously targeted towards improving equity in our public school system – it is the foundation of our offering, not a check-the-box exercise or an unintended by-product. 

While we endeavor to achieve our mission, I have decided to take action to demonstrate that Black Lives Matter to us at Zūm. Here are 5 actions that Zūm will take immediately:

  1. We will add a member of the Black community to our company advisory board and our customer advisory board.
  2. We will launch a Diversity & Inclusion talk series to foster empathy and awareness in our employees. We will invite diverse leaders including Black members of the communities we serve, from every walk of life, to interact with our team once a quarter and share their personal experiences.
  3. This November, Election Day will be a company holiday at Zūm. We encourage all our employees to vote as lasting change will come through the electoral process. 
  4. Although Zum is already a very diverse team, we will review our hiring policies and put a concerted effort into sourcing and hiring from the Black community at all levels of our organization.
  5. We believe true awareness comes by experiencing causes first-hand. We will institutionalize a policy where employees can take paid time off one day a year to work with BLM and other community-related organizations that promote equal treatment of people under the law. 

This is our beginning. It may not be perfect but ‘to commit and act is far better than staying quiet’. 

Today’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has been fueled by the sacrifices of many and it is important that we support it. We all need to put the issue front and center and not dilute it by talking about equality in general. This is a fight against ‘Systemic Racism and Brutality’ against the black community. Let us keep focused. Let us fight wholeheartedly for Black lives! 

Godspeed to the activists and peaceful protests around the world!

A simpler, less emotionally-charged analogy I came across recently on social media sums up my point.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

Feature Homepage

Zūm update on COVID-19: Serving school districts and cities on the frontline

Fighting for What We Value Most

I am a mom of two beautiful children and am an entrepreneur. My company, Zūm, is 100% focused on children, providing smart mobility for students. And as both a parent and an entrepreneur, I never imagined that schools would shut down for more than a few days for snow or even wildfires. I believed education was literally recession-proof. But COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has changed everything, and has done it in the blink of an eye! We are aware of how challenging this time is for everyone.

If your organization needs help to deliver the resources you have, to your students and community members in need, Zūm is on the frontlines to make this happen. We were created to deliver precious cargo, safely and reliably. And while we still are providing rides for children and families, we are also extending our services to support school districts’ and cities’ efforts to fight COVID-19; delivery of meals, instructional materials and technology, and transportation for special services. Even though the cargo might be different, we still want to be there for you and do what we do best. 

Just two days ago our school system across the U.S. came to a screeching halt. It started with announcements of closures for a couple of weeks and has now evolved to speculations about closures through summer. I’ve been speaking with our customers, schools, districts, and families all over the U.S., and it’s clear that millions of students and families are impacted by this pandemic in ways we never could have imagined. This is truly a state of emergency for our society and education system, and it will take the collective effort of government agencies, schools, foundations, families and companies to meet all students’ unique learning needs while our schools’ physical locations are shut down and distance learning is put in place. 

The Complexity of School Closure in Numbers

Our school system is designed to serve students from every background, color, and socioeconomic status. As a country, we are committed to “equity and equal access to education” as a fundamental right of every child. But when schools shut down, it impacts millions of kids in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. 

Today in the U.S., over 56 million children attend school. Of these, 30 million children qualify to receive free or low-cost meals, and they rely on these meals as a constant in their lives every day. In addition, the school system supports education for over 7 million students with special needs and 1.5 million students who experience homelessness during the school year. 

Shutting down school sites does not just mean loss of classroom education but also for many students loss of access to guaranteed meals/nutrition, access to school-provided internet and laptops for virtual learning, access to special equipment for students with special needs, and many other challenges. If school closures persist for a few weeks or a few months, you can imagine what a majority of our children will have to go through. 

States, cities and school districts are working round the clock operationalizing efforts to normalize education and minimize the impact of school closure. We recently saw California Governor Gavin Newsom pass SB117 allowing Education Finance protection during COVID19. We have seen districts working to procure distance learning materials, and setting up drive-through pickup centers for student meals. Influential leaders like Facebook COO, Sheryl SandbergStephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, among others are standing up for our children and supporting local schools and food banks. And companies like Zoom and Discord are helping set up virtual classrooms. It is heartening to see these great examples of organic public-private partnerships emerging all over the nation to bridge the gap and avoid disruption in the lives of our students as we fight COVID-19. 

Zūm has always been in the child mobility business, but never before has our mission and focus been more critical. Now more than ever safe delivery of meals, IEP resources, and distance learning materials means the difference between equity and access for some vs. for all students. Unfortunately, this is the case for millions of our children. We know this is where Zūm can step in and do our part.

How Zūm will Support Whole School Communities

Zūm today is working with over 250 School Districts and 10,000 schools across California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, and Washington. We have a network of thousands of vetted and qualified drivers with childcare experience. We also have the technology to track and record every single pick up and drop off and monitor transportation services and deliveries in real-time.

Starting this week, Zūm is mobilizing our network of drivers and technology to fill the last-mile gap and deliver the resources all children need and deserve. We are working in partnership with hundreds of schools, districts, local agencies, and foundations to support students and families in the following ways. 

  • Meal delivery to students at home or to designated locations, especially during this period of “social distancing” and growing requirements to “shelter in place.” We will record every delivery to ensure the meal gets to the right student. 
  • Safe delivery of Chromebooks / laptops or any technology resources to support students with distance learning.
  • Pick up / drop off of materials for students with IEPs, such as assistive technology or any resources identified in a student’s IEPs to ensure compliance with IDEA requirements. 
  • Delivery of instructional materials to support all students with distance learning recognizing students’ unique and individual needs  
  • Safe transportation of students (and parents or aides) to therapy sessions, required services, and key meetings to maintain consistency for our most vulnerable student populations.  

Times like these define us as individuals, as organizations, and as a society. At Zūm, we have decided to join together with our community to fight for our students, schools, families, and drivers. To fight to ensure equal access for all students, especially during this period of school closures. To do everything we can to emerge from this pandemic together a stronger community. As Helen Keller said – “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

If your organization needs help to deliver the resources you have to your students and community members in need, please contact us here. We are here to help. 

If you have other ideas for how we can collaborate to support your students or amplify existing efforts and impact, please share in the comments below. 

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm