School District 8 is set to pilot a program that will track when students enter and exit buses, which it says will help make sure children don’t get lost.
Next week, kindergarten to Grade 12 students at Crawford Bay Elementary and Secondary, Salmo Elementary and Salmo Secondary will begin receiving digital cards they will use to tap a scanner on district buses.
Janet Wall, the district’s manager of operations and transportation, said the program was initially considered as a way to produce accurate ridership information for COVID-19 contract tracing.
But, she added, there are other benefits that will be useful after the pandemic ends.
“When a student perhaps signs onto the bus and then gets off at the wrong stop or gets on a bus that’s not their assigned bus, I can do a search and it will tell me what school or where Johnny got on, or where he got off,” she said.
The technology by Seattle-based Zonar Systems will log the times each card is scanned, as well as which bus it is used on. The information is stored on servers in Canada that can be instantly accessed by the district.
Wall said no personal information is stored by the company, only the ID number associated with the student’s card.
On Wednesday, some SD8 buses were delayed by a wind storm that blew debris onto roads and highways.
Wall said if the tracking system had been in place, the district would know immediately which students were impacted and could quickly communicate with families.
The current system used by the district, she said, only shows how many students should be on a bus, not how many actually are in real time.
“On our busing program, it tells us that between [the driver’s] first pickup and last pickup he should have 10 kids on the bus,” said Wall.
“But this program will tell us that actually only two kids got on the bus. So we can contact those two families right away instead of going through all 10 kids saying the bus is stuck on the road.”
Wall said there’s the possibility an app will be made available to parents to track their kids if the district adopts the program.
If a student loses their card, the first replacement is free with later cards costing families $5 each. Wall added students won’t be denied a ride if they don’t have their card handy.
The program will be piloted through February. If it is adopted by the district, Wall said SD8 will pay approximately $2,000 per month for the service.
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