Behind the scenes of the Go2School App


As a new school year begins in Chicago, there’s an app to help parents find directions to their new school called – appropriately enough – Go To School!

The app was built by Tom Kompare who initially wanted an easy way to determine when he needed to leave to get his daughter to school. When CPS announced that they intended to close a great number of schools, it added an extra impetus to create a tool to help parents find ways to get their kids to new schools.

Kompare spoke to CPS about the idea and CPS was receptive. From then Kompare worked on getting the data that would be used to power the app.

Mainly, Kompare needed

  • The schools that were going to stay open for 2013-2014
  • The Safe Passage Routes (Routes that students take to school that are guarded by city employees)
  • Crossing guard locations
  • Bell Times

However, there were challenges to getting this data. At the time, CPS had not finalized the list of schools that would be closed and the safe passage routes had not been released.

While waiting on this data, Kompare built a prototype app. This app was one of the first apps to undergo user testing through Smart Chicago’s Civic User Testing group program.

Once the user testing was done, Kompare went back and made adjustments to the app based on feedback. Still, Kompare had to deal with challenges in getting the data in time for the new school year.

There’s several lessons learned from building the Go To School App.

1) While city departments may think it’s a good idea, it’s not their priority.

2) Your schedule is not their schedule

3) Just because they think they have the data, doesn’t mean it’s in a usable format.

4) Do it anyway.

Kompare will continue working on the app as more data is released. You can view his app on GitHub here.