BOURBONNAIS — Bourbonnais Elementary School District 53 is planning to use a GPS tracking system in order to better keep tabs on students riding school buses.
The Bourbonnais School Board approved the purchase of a transportation student tracking system from Tyler Technologies during its May meeting.
The cost for the system is $3,200 per vehicle, or about $80,000 to equip 25 vehicles in the first year, and $675 per vehicle ($16,875 per year) for subsequent years. The technology is not permanently installed and can be easily moved to different vehicles.
Assistant Superintendent James Duggan said the district currently uses a system called Traversa from Tyler Technologies for bus routing.
However, the district does not have the ability to immediately identify the location of buses or the individual students riding them.
“We can get on the radio and ask if a student is on the bus, but parents do not have access to the location or status of buses, which leads to a lot of phone calls and worry,” he said.
With the new system, each bus will be equipped with an electronic tablet that has GPS technology.
The tablets will display turn-by-turn navigation maps of bus routes, but this only activates while the bus is stopped so that drivers are not distracted while driving.
“From a safety perspective, the driver cannot look down to see where to turn any time the bus is moving,” Duggan said. “The assumption is that he or she knows where they’re going.”
There is also potential to use the system to reward bus drivers for safe driving, as it monitors driving patterns, he noted.
The bus dispatcher can send drivers information directly to the device about any extra routes they need to pick up and the corresponding rosters of students.
Additionally, the devices have a feature that allows students to check in with their ID cards when boarding the bus, or the drivers can identify students from a photo roster and check them in when they board.
The technology will allow parents to track the whereabouts of their students using a mobile app.
“Dispatch won’t be getting calls to [ask] when is the bus coming, the bus is 10 minutes late,” Duggan said. “You’ll just go on the app and see exactly when they’ll be rolling up in front of your house.”
Parents can use the app to see when their children will be arriving home as well, or if the parents are on their way home, they can check if they are ahead of or behind the bus route.
The information accessible to parents on the app is user specific, so they are tracking the location of their individual child and not the bus itself or other children in the system.
“I’ve been saying for eight years I feel like we need this,” Duggan said. “It’s the worst feeling in the world when a parent calls and says, ‘Where’s my kid?” and we don’t know. We have a good idea and we can always find them… If there’s a better way, it saves us from those moments.”