The more some things change, the more they stay the same -- and that certainly applies to school buses. It seems like school districts' transportation and the low-tech systems that schools keep track of kids who take the bus to school has operated in the same exact way for decade. But an innovative new program might be starting to catch on. One school district in Saratoga Springs is making headlines for implementing the program.
The Times Union reports that beginning this month, the school district will be giving students identification cards that they'll scan when they enter and exit the school bus. The ID cards will be linked to a system that offers parents and school employees automatic updates on the students' whereabouts. In turn, they'll have to play far fewer guessing games when it comes to figuring out whether a kid made it to school or home safe and on time. The ID cards' radio frequency identification device (RFID) trackers have authentication codes that are unique to each student and can only be read by the bus drivers' tablet. No personal information will be stored in the card, but the outside will show a student's full name and photo.
"Our drivers were literally using printed-out directions and three-ring binders to keep track of student names, bus assignments, everything," Cheryl Dalton, director of transportation for the district, told the newspaper. "Now, everything will be in the tablet so our drivers can pay attention to the road and not a stack of papers sitting nearby."
The "Tyler Ride" system, as it's being called, will automatically alert drivers when a student boards the wrong bus or if a student is missing, bolstering both safety and efficiency, Dalton explained. It almost makes you wonder why nothing like this has been implemented before, especially when incidents of kids getting on the wrong bus or missing their stop aren't exactly uncommon. But "the economics of the required technology haven't come together until very recently," Ted Thien, general manager of Tyler's transportation solutions group, told the Times Union.
All in all, it seems like this is the beginning of a whole new, long overdue era of school transportation, offering parents, educators, and students much-needed peace of mind. It will certainly be interesting to see if it takes off around the country!