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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Kids at Spokane Public Schools now have a new way of getting to class

The Spokane Public Schools building.   (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Just for schoolchildren, an Uber-like experience has pulled into Spokane.

HopSkipDrive, a Los Angeles-based company with operations around the country, launched this week as part of an agreement with Spokane Public Schools.

The service will cater to children not easily transported on a school bus, potentially saving money for the district and time for students and their families.

Details were expected to be shared during Wednesday’s night school board meeting, but HopSkipDrive began its soft rollout on Monday.

“This is part of an ongoing effort of being innovative and efficient, and being good stewards,” Superintendent Adam Swinyard said.

Swinyard said that Durham School Services “remains our prime contractor,” but noted that because Durham is paid per route, it makes sense to use smaller vehicles for particular routes.

Those include routes serving special-needs students, those covered by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act.

HopSkipDrive was founded in 2014 by three busy working mothers in Los Angeles.

“We had eight kids between us, and we were dying with the challenge of getting kids to and from school,” CEO and co-founder Joanna McFarland told The Spokesman-Review.

Eventually, the trio sat down and “figured there had to be a better way, and for kids to feel safe – we designed it from the ground up with that in mind,” McFarland said.

Using the HopSkipDrive app or website, parents can request rides for children 6 and older, booking as little as eight hours in advance, or by 7 p.m. for rides the following morning.

Prior to the ride, HopSkipDrive matches ride requests to a driver and provides a photo profile to parents and families, which they can share with their child and school.

During the ride, parents can track progress through the app or via text message, while HopSkipDrive’s Safe Ride Support team monitors all rides in real time.

CareDrivers, as HopSkipDrive calls them, must pass a 15-point certification process that includes FBI and Department of Justice database searches, driving record checks through the state and an in-person meeting with the company.

Before the ride, parents and kids see a profile of their CareDriver, who recites a secret code word at pickup to ensure the correct rider climbs aboard.

HopSkipDrive now has partnerships with several Spokane-area school districts – McFarland didn’t specify the others – and charter schools.

Rides will be paid for by the school districts. It’s unclear how much schools will save through HopSkipDrive.

HopSkipDrive services metropolitan areas in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Washington D.C.