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New Student Transportation Provider at SFUSD

Editor Note: This guest post is cross-posted from the San Francisco Unified School District’s blog

Zum Promises Modernized Transportation With Upgrades in Service, Safety and Reliability

The SFUSD Transportation Department strives to create safe, reliable, and environmentally sustainable transportation to and from school for our students. To that end, the District engaged in a rigorous Request for Proposals (RFP) process that led to SFUSD selecting Zum as a new transportation partner for the next five years. Zum promises to provide a modern, connected fleet powered by an integrated service platform, with the ability to provide end-to-end visibility and transparency to our school community.

We are excited to begin the 2021-2022 school year with the means to provide a seamless, full-service transportation infrastructure equipped with modern technology to unify and improve the experience for our students, families, administrators, and bus drivers.

Increased Transparency and Improved Communications

Zum’s service offerings promise increased transparency and better communication at each step in the process, creating an enhanced experience for families. Students and families should expect to see the following main changes in the service from Zum:

  • New, green fleet: Students will be riding in brand new school buses, many of which will be greener from day one to meet SFUSD’s sustainability goals.
  • Easy onboarding: Improved onboarding, including detailed verification of family and riders’ data in six languages.
  • Real-time route updates: The Zum mobile app provides everyone who is part of the child’s school day (families, school sites and the Transportation Department) with real-time route updates and estimated arrival times, eliminating questions or concerns about the location of your child or their ride to school. All students will be checked in and out of the bus at pick-up and drop-off as an added safety feature.
  • Personalized preferences: Zum’s technology offers a more personalized care experience for all students by making it easy for parents to communicate preferences and updates directly through the app. For instance, a family can use the Zum app to notify the District instantly about any ride cancellations or issues with pick-ups.
  • Feedback and complaints: With the Zum app, families can rate their child’s daily ride experience and give feedback, or directly speak with a Zum team member.
  • Enhanced accountability: Zum will provide performance data and reports to the District, allowing SFUSD to have a better understanding of how transportation is serving students and families, and which areas need to be improved upon.

At SFUSD, we are committed to improving transportation for our students, and working toward environmentally-friendly options for our community. Our longer-term plans include transitioning to a zero-emissions electric fleet, which will make SFUSD one of the first school districts in the U.S. to operate on an entirely electric fleet by 2025.

We look forward to welcoming our students back to the classroom!

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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!

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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. www.ridezum.com.

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3 reasons school transportation isn’t working — and how to get things back on track

No matter how many years pass after high school graduation, it’s hard to forget how you got to and from school. Whether you walked, biked, carpooled or took the yellow school bus, it’s one of those things that sticks with us. And that’s not just because of fond (or not so fond) memories; it’s because school transportation hasn’t changed in more than 80 years!

As a result of that lack of evolution, the system just isn’t working for today’s students, families or school districts. Here are 3 reasons why — and how Zūm is working with districts, drivers and families to reimagine student transportation:

  1. Lack of visibility: Once their child steps onto the bus, parents have no idea if they made it to school or not. By implementing state-of-the-art technology like RFID and offering a simple-to-use mobile app, Zūm enables schools, districts and parents to have visibility into where their children are in real-time along with any route updates and the driver’s profile. Not only does this increase safety and alleviate parental worry, it also significantly reduces the number of customer support calls districts and schools need to manage on a day-to-day basis. 
  1. Inefficient Routes: Students today are sitting through long bus rides that can take them way out of their way — taking precious time away from after school activities, homework or time spent with family or friends. But with Zūm’s safe and modern service, inefficient routes, long travel times and unexpected delays are a thing of the past. In fact, 70% of students using Oakland Unified School District’s transportation system previously spent more than one hour on a bus traveling to school each way, but that number has shifted since Zūm implemented new, flexible routes for the district so that 97% are waiting less than an hour. 
  1. Scattered information: School districts lack a simplified, end-to-end platform, relying instead on a variety of systems and technologies that don’t talk to one another to make things work. With Zūm, school districts can now manage daily operations, track and plan vehicle use and driver profiles, and analyze performance and service data from one place. This not only makes things less complicated, but can also save districts time and money.

At Zūm, we recently launched a comprehensive student transportation service designed for school districts, drivers, and parents. If you’d like to learn more about how to reimagine transportation for your school or district, please reach out! (1-855-RIDEZUM) We’d love to chat.

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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.

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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.

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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 community@ridezum.com. 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

WEBINAR 3

[7/22/2020] – SOCIAL EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING: SUPPORTING STUDENTS AND STAFF TRANSITION BACK TO SCHOOL

Date: July 22, 2020 from 10:00 – 11:00 am PT (Pacific Time)
Panel:
❒ 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)
Panel:
❒ 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

Recording

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)
Panel:
❒ 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

Recording

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

California

[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.

Colorado

[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.

Kentucky

[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.

Illinois

[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.

Texas

[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.

Washington

[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. 

Overview: NationAtHope.org/report-from-the-nation

Academic and Lifetime Outcomes: CASEL.org/impact

Health Outcomes: CDC.gov/healthyyouth/wscc/model.htm

Student Assessment: xsel-labs.com

Classroom Instruction: Schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-3/classroom/integration-of-sel-and-instruction

Teacher Professional Development: EverywhereEd.com/professional-development.html

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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

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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