COVID-19 Back to School

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

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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


Zūm Celebrates Back to School with Expanded Service to Eight New Markets!

The first day of a brand new school year is always a special time for me, both personally and professionally. 

As a mother, I’m personally delighted to see my own two children (like over 50 million other students across the country) take that next step in their education and development. It’s wonderful to watch our kids blossom as they learn and grow and mature in so many exciting ways. Likewise, professionally I’m ecstatic to see Zūm continue to progress and mature as we fulfill our mission to be the leader in safe and reliable rides for children. Now more than ever our communities need a modern approach to transportation that works for schools and families. With student transportation costs rising 75% since 1980, it’s critical that Zūm succeeds in reducing these runaway expenses so money can be better allocated to programs that truly improve education.

I’m proud to share some of the ways Zūm is helping bring about better student transportation as children head back to school:

Zūm is expanding nationwide

As a team, we realize that to achieve our goals we need to bring the advantages of Zūm transportation to every school in every neighborhood. We won’t rest until all children have access to safe rides that are an efficient and enjoyable experience. To this end, we’re expanding Zum in two additional markets in California and six additional states. We’re now providing student transportation for schools in Sacramento and San Diego. This adds to our current offering in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in both Los Angeles and Orange County. Beyond California, I’m proud to share that we’re also now providing student transportation to schools in communities in and around Miami, Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, and the Washington DC Metro area. 2019 will bring additional markets; we have teams in place in many other cities preparing to roll out Zūm rides. I’ll keep you posted as additional markets are announced.

Zūm introduces new Monthly Packages

To help families get the best pricing on Zūm rides, we’re also kicking off the back-to-school season with revamped Monthly Packages for SF Bay Area service. To offset the costs of demand-based pricing (and help us find a smaller pool of drivers for families), parents can now lock in the best rates by scheduling repeat rides for an upcoming month. To qualify for Monthly Packages, you only need to schedule the same ride three or more times in that month. To help us assign drivers, however, parents must schedule Monthly Packages before the month begins. You can learn more through our Zūm mobile app for iOS or Android.

Zūm is hiring (and has moved into new offices)

To continue creating new features and expanding to new cities, we’re adding new team members every day. This includes our full-time staff at our Redwood City headquarters as well as at regional offices in expansion locations. If you know talented people who would share our passion for helping schools and families, please point them towards our Careers Page. 

Speaking of our Zūm offices, after many months of growth we found ourselves running out of room fast. To give us all elbow room and provide even more room for team expansion, we moved our headquarters. Although we’re in the same building, we now have more than twice the space as before. Finding a conference room for a meeting or a comfortable place for some quiet contemplation is no longer a headache (at least not for a while).

We’re also onboarding more and more Zūm drivers daily, bringing trusted drivers to the Zūm community. It’s only through their dedication to children and safety that we’re able to be successful. Similarly, if you know wonderful people whom you think would be a great Zūmer, feel free to have them apply to drive for Zūm. The rewards are many, from financial to the satisfaction of helping nearby families and schools.

Zūm has now completed 1 million rides

With so many amazing developments happening here at Zūm, it’s no wonder we’re seeing our success multiply. We’ve now driven over one million rides, and we’re currently partnering with 250+ school districts and 4,000+ schools (and counting).

But more important than numbers, behind each of these metrics, is what really matters. Each number represents schools that have more money to spend directly on education, parents who can simplify their lives because children are safely driven where they need to be, children who can accomplish more by safely arriving at school and activities on time and ready to engage, and drivers who can benefit from helping their communities. This is why I originally founded Zūm, and why our team works so hard to continue achieving our mission and building on our success. I speak for all of us when I express how excited we are to help create a future that promises better and more enjoyable transportation.

Let’s work together to make this the best year yet. Welcome back to school everyone!

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

Zūm Heads Back to School Along with 50 Million Kids

Later this month, my children will join around 50 million other school-aged kids in the United States heading back to school. In California, where Zūm and my family are based, there are about seven million school-aged children. And, if your family is anything like mine, you’re probably preparing for the ‘special’ kind of craziness and complexity that juggling school, extracurricular activities and work brings each fall for the full year ahead. 

Thirty years ago, I witnessed my mother sacrifice her career to focus on her children and our day-to-day needs for transportation to school and activities. Many years later when my children started going to school, I realized that nothing much had changed. I faced the same dilemma of giving up my career because of a lack of safe and reliable part-time care for my children. This difficult but common parenting challenge for working families became my inspiration for starting Zūm – a trusted family logistics platform – to provide families with access to safe and reliable rides and care for children. 

Addressing Time Poverty

This is not your or my challenge alone. Over 41% of women in the U.S. say they find it hard to progress in their careers due to childcare needs and over 10 million women have left the workplace completely for this reason. Melinda Gates rightly calls this a time poverty gap, and it prevents women in the workplace from investing the same time into their careers as men. Researchers have often cited this as the ‘childcare penalty’ mothers face returning to their careers after a child is born.

I believe that while as a society we are showing a strong desire to act on gender equality in the workplace and society, we still have a long way to go. It is imperative to create easy access to safe and reliable on-demand family logistics resources, designed for modern families to turn this talk and desire into action. My vision for Zūm is to bring about this change and support child development without requiring anyone in the family to sacrifice their personal and professional aspirations.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

Empowering Families for the New School Year

As 34 million families across the country gear up for a busy back-to-school ritual, we’re excited to share some significant milestones that provide us with the opportunity to expand our product and services.

We’re thrilled to announce that we recently closed our Series A financing, led by Sequoia Capital — the same team behind phenomenal brands like A irbnb, Dropbox, Instacart, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Zappos. Additionally, their General Partner Bryan Schreier will be joining our board of directors. Funding will support the company’s continued product and market expansion, as well as the development of strategic partnerships and initiatives.

For the families across the country with children, there is a lack of safe and reliable ride options. Zūm is for every busy household, no matter what it looks like — single parent families and dual income families; families with an only child and those with multiple kids; households with kids in public or private school, grade school and high school — all families that are constantly juggling multiple schedules and work demands. Zūm understands the need for flexibility with today’s busy families and provides the care and transportation they need.

We serve families from over 800 schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County, and over one hundred public, charter, and private schools use them as their exclusive rideshare partner to meet the dynamic transportation needs of their students and families. Having executed over 100,000 rides last year, Zūm is on track to grow five times this year.

Timed with the back to school season, Zūm has launched three new products that further expand upon existing partnerships with schools, and make it easier for families to manage increasingly busy schedules. These products include:

  • Zūm Carpools: Parents can now coordinate with nearby friends, neighbors, and partner schools to create single or recurring carpools to and from school, activities, playdates, and more, providing a cost-efficient ride that’s also fun for kids.
  • Zūm School Integration: Zūm provides easy integration with schools and full visibility of their student population’s transportation through Zūm’s technology. This brings added peace of mind to the schools and the families that they serve.
  • Zūm Monthly Plans: Parents can book recurring pick ups and drop offs for the full school year at a convenient, low monthly payment, creating a consistent and smooth routine for families.

We look forward to continuing to serve busy families this coming school year, from school pick-ups and drop-offs to swimming lessons and dance classes, and all the moments in between. Thank you for your continued support.

Zūm on!

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

Carpooling The Easy Way — No More Telephone Tag

One of my biggest challenges is being solved today, and I’m so excited to share it with everyone. For years, I’ve been bogged down with the need to create carpools for my kids but not having the bandwidth to do these quickly and easily. Email or (even worse,) text threads would go on and on and sometimes get lost, buried or just plain forgotten. Calling was a nightmare as no one was ever free at the same time and it became an endless game of “telephone tag”. Furthermore, who was going to drive, when (especially when nobody has the time)?

Finally, I’d had enough. So our team at Zūm did something about it. While we’ve been the leader in rides and care for kids over the last two years, for which carpool has been a part, we now make it super easy for parents to plan, schedule and change carpools. No more texts, emails or phone calls, we do it all for you in our app. One less hassle to deal with every day! And because of the great Zūm drivers taking the wheel, the “who’s going to drive” question gets solved too.

From my experiences, I knew that we had to make this streamlined, and easy to add/invite people to, so we integrated the carpool option with our regular ride and care booking. So when you go to schedule a ride, you just choose “Carpool Ride” and you’re off and running.

Setting up the carpool is a piece of cake, just like setting up a Zūm ride — select your rider, choose date, time and location and set up payment method. For our carpool option, you can split payments one of three ways — pay it all yourself, split evenly by child or split evenly by parent. So if one family has three kids riding and you have one, you can split it into quarters.

Once that’s done, you simply invite your carpool families to join and they do their work on their end (adding their kids and payment methods). We even made sure there is a way to set up recurring carpools (just like our single rides,) and families can even drop out of a carpool date if they need to due to conflict. You no longer need to worry about the scheduling or the driving!

Beyond that, carpools are just your typical Zūm rides — great Zūm drivers, complete transparency and visibility and notifications throughout the ride. From my perspective, it has saved me so much time and lowered my stress about planning and getting my kids where they need to be. For my kids, they’re having a great time carpooling with their friends.

If you have carpools for school, practices, activities or anything, I hope you’ll try our new carpool feature, it will make your life so much easier.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

“Time Poverty” Here at Home

The Unpaid Labor Gender Gap Isn’t Just a Third-World Problem

Most of us had never heard the term “time poverty,” until billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates recently shone a light on the problem in her foundation’s annual letter. But reading her first-hand observations of how families divide unpaid labor, coupled with stark statistics of how women carry so much more of the burden, I realized that “time poverty” is simply a new name for a very old problem.

Worldwide, there is a significant gap between the amount of unpaid labor performed by women compared to that performed by men. Gates defines “unpaid labor” simply:

“Unpaid work is what it says it is: It’s work, not play, and you don’t get any money for doing it. But every society needs it to function.”

Cleaning, food shopping, childcare, cooking, and eldercare are all tasks that aren’t going away — but unfortunately the gender imbalance in who performs them doesn’t seem to be going away either.

The gap is widest in the poorest regions of the world, where women do as much as five hours more unpaid labor per day than men. In North America, women still perform two more hours per day than men [source: OECD 2014 Gender, Institutions and Development Database]. But when you consider that North America has a much higher percentage of both parents working outside the home, and that 25% of American families with children under age 18 are single mother households, it raises the question — how on earth do even first-world mothers find the time to do both paid and unpaid labor?

The Opportunity Cost

The problem of time poverty is not only one of fairness, or lack of leisure time, but of a large-scale opportunity cost to communities and the global economy. When women’s days are filled with unpaid labor, they find it difficult to learn new skills, advance in a job, or invent something new. Economist Rania Antonopoulos has argued that the gender gap in unpaid labor holds back economies (and societies) from reaching their full potential.

If women in the poorest countries were able to spend more time earning money for their families instead of working for free, that would have a powerful impact on their local economy. The same is true for the “overeducated” mom with a PhD, whose time may be better spent doing research and teaching than fishing socks out of the dryer.

Innovating Our Way to Equality

Despite the statistics, Melinda Gates is optimistic. She sees the time poverty problem as a consequence of persistent social norms, not a global conspiracy against women. She points out that technology may present an opportunity to short-circuit this stubborn cultural pattern:

“The solution is innovation, and you can help. Some of you will become engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and software developers. I invite you to take on the challenge of serving the poor with cheap, clean energy, better roads, and running water. Or maybe you can invent ingenious labor-saving technologies.”

The key to solving the time poverty problem may indeed be to shift some of the burden of unpaid labor onto technology, freeing up more time and energy for paid work, or at least giving us back a few hours a day to spend as we please. Technical innovation can also be used to connect women to each other, in ways that weren’t possible before the App Store and geolocation. When women who are starved for time can call on the services of women who need to earn extra money, we will all reap more rewards from our labor.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

Flexible Work Can be Fulfilling Work Too

For many of us, there comes a point in our lives when holding down a 9–5 (or longer) job becomes impossible. Whether it’s because we have kids or aging parents who need our help, or we want to pursue a passion that doesn’t pay the bills (yet), at one point or another it makes sense to find work that has flexible hours and/or work-at-home options.

Unfortunately, this often means making a compromise: taking work that is lower paid, or beneath your skill set or level of education. (This point was driven home to me recently when my checkout guy at Trader Joe’s told me he was a PhD candidate in math). Those trade-offs are particularly hard-felt by older workers who may have decades of experience in their field, but need to augment up their retirement income with extra work.

Part-time work is on the rise

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data (January 2016) shows that 18.2% of employed workers are part-timers. That percentage doesn’t even include independent workers in the burgeoning “gig economy,” or self-employed independent contractors who work part-time. The percentage of workers that work part-time shot up in 2010 during the Great Recession, but the ratio of part-time to full-time work has continued to rise, despite the economic recovery.

As our economy becomes more service-oriented, and so many traditional job functions become automated, the trend toward part-time work and multiple “gigs” will continue to grow. But there is no reason why part-time work should equal less-valuable work, or why making meaningful contributions to an organization must entail sitting at a desk for 40–60 hours per week.

A “gig” with purpose?

When we started Zum, an on-demand ride service for kids, we knew that our success would depend on finding exceptionally responsible, professional, and personable drivers to work with the busy families who entrusted us with their children. That meant going way above and beyond the standard screening and interview procedures to find the highest quality candidates. This would be a two-way street, though. In order to hire great caregivers, we would offer above-average pay, flexibility, and control over one’s schedule. More than that, we would give our drivers (“Zumers”) the chance to forge meaningful relationships with clients, by assigning them to a consistent group of families.

We hypothesized that there were high-quality candidates out there, who were holding out for opportunities that would give them flexibility, better pay and a sense of purpose. But we’ve truly been overwhelmed by the number of amazing Zumers who have helped us grow from 10 to 100 providers in only six months. Our team of Zumers includes teachers, nurses, stay-at-home moms, grad students, and even part-time professionals.

One Zumer, Naira, appreciates the flexibility and also the opportunity to grow:

“Zum lets me choose my hours and has also given me a growth path to work on recruiting and training other Zumers.”

The same feedback loop that keeps our quality standards high also brings a sense of fulfillment to Zumers — many report that when they receive positive feedback from clients, it lifts their spirits and boosts their confidence in their other endeavors.

The “gig economy” is likely here to stay — but that doesn’t have to mean that work has to become impersonal and commoditized. After all, technology is most successful when it connects people to create value that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. Workers who need flexibility are a rich, largely untapped resource, and employers would be foolish to marginalize them with low pay and shoddy benefits. They are also valuable members of our communities, which are strengthened when we’re all able to find fulfilling and respected work.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

Working Parents Are Overwhelmed

A few months ago a friend of mine invited me to an after-work meeting of working mothers in Palo Alto, “but there are some ground rules,” she warned. My friend, a top lawyer at Google, was not one to mince words. “It’s not a forum for networking, talking about your kids, complaining about your husband, or crying on each other’s shoulders. We get together to talk about the challenges of being working mothers in tech.”

Being a startup founder myself and the mother of 2 kids, I was eager to meet these women and appreciated the no-nonsense approach. After a glass of wine and snacks, we gathered in a large circle and introduced ourselves. The moderator asked us to describe our “current state of mind” as we went around the room. All of the women held management positions at Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and myriad high-growth startups. And their state of mind? “Overwhelmed.” “Stressed.” “Exhausted.”

These women were being stretched to the limit, but their concerns were a far cry from the working mom headlines we’ve become used to from parenting magazines. Not a single woman at this meeting questioned their decision to have a career, or to have kids, or claimed to feel guilty toward their families, or even expressed concern about their earnings. What these women were lacking was time — time to simply get through the logistics of each day when meetings run late, kids need to be ferried to activities, and dinner must magically appear on the table. Many complained they didn’t even have the time to do the research and interviewing to get the help they need.

Most children today are growing up in dual-income households where the chief resource constraint is time.

This was a highly educated group of women in Silicon Valley, but their experience is representative of broader trends in American families. Fully 70% of mothers with children under the age of 18 work outside the home (Source: U.S. Dept of Labor, 2013). That percentage has essentially held steady for the last 15 years — it is the new reality, and is likely to rise as wages fail to keep up with increasing costs of living. So, most children today are growing up in dual-income households where the chief resource constraint is time.

In her bestselling book “Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time,” author Brigid Schulte identifies the number one challenge for working parents as finding uninterrupted blocks of work time, instead of the shreds of “time confetti” that leave us with a sense of having accomplished nothing at the end of the day.

Schulte, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post, interviews psychologists, time management experts, statisticians, and anthropologists to try to get to the bottom of why modern-day parenting has become a race without a finish line. But it was one of her personal anecdotes that really resonated with me.

One afternoon Schulte was working under deadline for a story about a Somali war criminal. She was interrupted by a call from her babysitter, informing her at the last minute that she would not be able to pick her 3rd-grade daughter up from school and take her to her ballet class at 4:30. “Without giving it a second thought, I began making plans to take her myself,” Schulte recalls. After a traffic jam, rushed snack, and argument over her daughter’s hairstyle, this working mom’s day was reduced to time confetti, with a work deadline still looming over the dinner hour.

Does it have to be this way? All this young ballerina needed was a ride from school to her lesson. Was it really in the best interest of Schulte’s career, or of her family life, to drop what she was doing to shuttle her daughter across town? With stress levels running so high, it’s unlikely that the drive was quality mother-daughter time.

The next generation of caregiving solutions will blend far better vetting and quality controls than the traditional caregiver networks, with the convenience and on-demand efficiency of an Uber.

I often feel like each day begins as a house of cards — meticulously planned and constructed, but if one piece falls out of place, the whole thing comes crashing down. In talking to that group of mothers in Palo Alto, as well as my own friends and extended family, I’ve discovered that what many working parents need is a Plan B and C for childcare, so when Plan A inevitably falls through every so often (after all, caregivers have complicated lives too), parents don’t need to risk their jobs to step in at the last minute.

Very few of us have the extended family networks of days gone by, and carpooling is fraught with conflicting schedules and being obliged to return the favor. What if technology could help working parents access a trusted network of caregivers, to guarantee that their kids get picked up on schedule, and ensure that their work time wouldn’t be interrupted? Internet companies like have been successfully matching parents and caregivers for years, but families with older kids might not need a dedicated sitter anymore.

The next generation of caregiving solutions will blend far better vetting and quality controls than the traditional caregiver networks, with the convenience and on-demand efficiency of an Uber. And since they will need to build trust with busy families, they will provide personalization, continuity, and consistency that families and kids expect.

Tackling the problems that face working parents will take a combination of societal change, better corporate policies, and political action, but many of us can’t wait for those slow-moving processes to yield results. In the meantime, thoughtful tech solutions may help solve some of the day-to-day logistics of working and raising a family, so we can focus on work at work, and on our families at home.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm