In Sacramento, there will be live GPS, video camera, and digital tracking on local school buses in some local school districts, says an October 7, 2013 Sacramento Bee article by Loretta Kalb,"Sacramento-area school buses go high-tech." In a few weeks the Sacramento County area in the suburb, Folsom, will have its school buses equipped with GPS tracking where kids can swipe their cards as they board and leave the school bus.
What's going to happen in the Folsom Cordova Unified School District is that almost 2,000 students boarding buses in the will be able to swipe a card over a bar-code reader that is linked to GPS tracking. With that technology, if your child isn't accounting for once he or she boards the school bus, you will be able to find out when your child entered and left that school bus and at what bus stop and street location.
At present, only 78 buses in that specific school district will enter a new age of security tracking. What about the rest of Sacramento County? For the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, each kid's swipe will tell the school district – and, ultimately, inquiring parents – where and when a child got on or off the school bus.
Elsewhere in another neighborhood of Sacramento, Twin Rivers Unified School District workers are installing a digital video and audio recording system on the district’s buses. What the district has is a live GPS, which allows those in authority to log in and cue up what’s going on and pinpoint exactly where the bus is. You need this type of technology on school buses when emergencies can happen.
It's one way to stop bullying on the school bus
Too many kids get bullied, pushed around, or otherwise picked on while riding the school bus. Now, if there is bullying on the back of the bus, at least the driver will be able to notify transportation headquarters via two-way radio. The onboard audio and video can be viewed remotely in real time. That system lets drivers mark the spot in the recording for quick review later to show who's being bullied so it can be stopped while on the school bus. Unfortunately, it may not stop bullying when the kids get off the bus and are between the bus stop and school grounds.
Safe environments for kids come first. The company, Gatekeeper Systems Inc. of British Columbia supplies Twin Rivers with 120 buses as part of a $257,000 contract. What parents want for their children's safety are live-streaming cameras and also a way to record what's happening to prove who bullied who. You never know when a bus driver is in trouble or becomes ill while driving. The same system should be in all public transit so passengers can be safe if the driver suddenly becomes sick while driving the bus, light rail, or train.
Sacramento has a situation where school bus operations have shrunk, and there are fewer students in the public schools
Not enough children are riding school buses. The statistics say that at Twin Rivers, only about 30 percent of the district’s nearly 27,000 students ride school buses. You have parents driving kids to school or children riding bikes or walking. Or there are car pools, usually run by some parents. For example, according to the Sacramento Bee article, at Natomas Unified, ridership is only about 5 percent of the district’s 10,000 students. And at Folsom Cordova, only about 10 percent of the district’s 19,000 students ride the bus, the Sacramento Bee article explains.
Sometimes you have a school bus making the mistake of picking up a student with disabilities such as autism where the student can't talk and tell someone that the bus driver let him/her off at the wrong school. What happens when there's a communication issue? See, "Natomas district bus driver takes autistic boy to wrong school."
Students need to board the correct bus and arrive at the right campus even when they can't speak
At Folsom Cordova, Synovia Solutions of Indianapolis is supplying the student bar-code card system along with a GPS route management and tracking system for the district’s 78 buses under a five-year, $211,000 contract. So at least parents who send autistic kids to school on the bus can find out where the child departed from the bus to make sure the child who can't speak well enough to communicate is at a school expecting that child.
It's still in the near future, but soon, when technology will be available that can alert bus drivers when a child gets on the wrong bus or off at the wrong school. There are so many students who don't know which bus to take that will bring that child home, since most school buses look similar. Not every child can read any signs on buses as to destination. That's why swiping a card when boarding the bus immediately identifies a particular child. The system works by putting the information onto a card from a tablet that verifies whether that child should be on that particular bus, by the number of the bus.
Even though bus drivers are trained to bring special-education students to the right school and the right home, you can read articles on what happens when something goes awry and the child ends up in the wrong place. That's why the district also purchased a bus-routing system that, once operational, could include a card-swiping system to record student travel.
A camera in the bus helps, but digital cameras need to record what's happening and be able to send out that information in an emergency
As a backup to digital cameras at Folsom Cordova, at least there will be card readers that track when kids get on and off buses. But now what's needed, if the budget allows, is the ability of parents to track what the bus drivers are tracking so the parents can see where there kids are en route to school. For example, how does a kindergarten student stop a bus if the driver becomes incapacitated or has a sudden and serious medical issue while the bus is in motion?
A problem comes up when the kid gets off the bus, walks toward the school, but never gets to classes. There is only so much that can be done unless the kid is wearing a pendant or other device that tracks the kids steps into the classroom. And that's at the moment at least beyond what the school can do. For the present, tracking a child's bus ride to and from school is what's happening locally in some school districts. See the AOL news video, "Autistic Kindergartner Dropped Off At Wrong School."