With the new school year already here parents have just put the finishing touches on getting their kids out the door and on to the school bus for another school season.
For some children it’s their first time leaving mom and dad in the morning to catch the bus, and although it can be a definite time of excitement for him or her, it can also be a little bit scary.
And sometimes it’s even scarier for adults, as they let their children out of their sight for the first time, not being able to see them until later in the afternoon or sometimes in the evening when parents get off work.
To remove some of the anxiety associated with putting children on school buses, a company named Zonar has created an electronic tracking system, specifically designed to let parents know when their children get on and off the bus each day.
“They run a tag across the scanner and it records that they entered the bus, the location, and the time, said Dave Meeuwsen, who is the transportation director for the Zeeland, Mich. school district, where they began using the tracking system just this year.
The way Zonar works, or ZPass as it’s also called, is by having kids swipe an electric card once they enter or exit the bus. The swipe then gets registered to a data base which allows the school district to know the exact whereabouts of not only each child, but the bus as well.
School officials also say the ZPass is ideal for safety and emergency units to respond quicker and in more accurate fashion, as school districts can electronically send messages to response units about who is exactly on the bus at that very specific moment.
“By having students with this card, we can immediately email EMT folks about the ridership of that day, so they know who they are looking for,” said Meeuwsen.
Zonar also provides a group of service representatives that parents can contact to get specific questions answered, like why is the bus running late, or checking to see if their child had any behavioral problems on the bus that day.
In order for the system to be used, each school district must first agree to purchase and install the hub of the device on each bus. In Zeeland’s case the district received a $50,000 grant to have the tracing system put in.
What’s also handy about the ZPass is the fact that parents can receive real time text messages on their smartphones or computers, as any developing information happens on the bus while it's in route.
Additionally, students don’t have to carry a bulky or expensive electronic device to use the system, as they only have to tote a small card, which is perfect for younger children who are more prone to loose or misplace their belongings. The card easily clips on to the child’s book bag, pocket or jacket.
The tracking systems also allows school districts to gauge if buses are overcrowded, as the database will be able to give accurate daily counts of each student getting on and off the bus. This better allows schools to tweak certain bus routes if need be, or add more buses to routes that are overcrowded.
At the end of each route the bus drivers are asked a series of questions by the device like, did you check for students? And other safety questions that allows the driver to document how each bus ride and day was completed.
The Zeeland school district also says the device better allows drivers to focus more on the road, and safety, and not on headcounts, as the electronic reader provides the driver with the accurate number of riders they have each day.