The school district has implemented a new bus tracking system to make sure no student gets left behind.
When school started Aug. 21, the 1,600 students who ride the district’s 24 buses were introduced to a new high-tech system that tracks them as they get on and off the bus.
Each student received an RFID card, short for radio-frequency identification card, that emits electromagnetic fields used to track objects. As they board the bus, students scan the card into a tablet mounted inside the bus. Their name and stop are displayed for the bus driver to check. That information is then logged into an app called SafeStop, which tracks their location in real time for parents.
The district paid $9,000 for the system it bought from Seattle-based Zonar, which provides smart fleet management solutions, according to its website.
“This has been a process that I’ve been working on for two years,” said Erin Peacock, the district’s director of transportation.
Rocky River joins cities such as Avon, Avon Lake and Beachwood in using a system that tracks students this way.
Until this year, bus drivers used paper and pencil to record when students got on and off buses. That would sometimes create inaccuracies because drivers had to divide their attention between traffic conditions, who left the bus and where their names were on the sheet to check off.
“If you could imagine sitting in the driver's seat of the bus and we’re dropping off eight students on a stop, if we’re looking down at a piece of paper and checking off students, I’ve now lost sight of students exiting my bus,” Peacock said. “It’s a safety issue. Our objective when we drop off students is for our eyes not to leave our mirrors and our kids.”
Despite the ease of the new system, there are still obstacles. Bus drivers and children are adjusting to it. Students who ride the bus to private schools are not included yet because their information has not been added to the district database, Peacock said.
“We’ve definitely had some growing pains,” Peacock said. “Along with not only the drivers learning the system, this is all new to the kids, especially the little ones. So we kind of have to guide them through the process and what we’re doing.”
Regardless, officials are confident the new system will improve the safety and daily operations of their bus routes, according to district spokesman Greg Murphy.
“District safety is always going to be a top priority,” he said. “This was another way for us to expand on that.”
In 2013, the school district installed a $6,000 GPS tracking system for its buses. The system provides live data to see where each bus is and if they are making their stops on time. This new technology comes as the district upgrades the tracking system and every bus equipped with it. The district partnered with Zonar in 2009 to help improve transportation.
“Our main goal is to make sure our kids are safe,” Peacock said. “All we can ask for is that parents be patient with us so that we can make sure their kids are getting home safe.”
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