Stephenville ISD has implemented a new system aimed at improving school bus safety.
The SMART tag monitors students as they enter and exit buses and provides real-time information to the Transportation Department and parents.
Students are issued a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) SMART tag ID.
School buses are equipped with a tablet computer and a RFID reader. When students get on the bus, the bus driver will scan their card, marking the time, date and location of where the student is. When students get off the bus, they scan the card again.
“It also tells us if a student belongs on a bus,” said David Woods, director of transportation at SISD. “When they come on, they scan their card and it’ll give a green check on the driver’s tablet that they belong on there and it has information on their home address if the bus driver needs it. If they don’t belong on the bus and they scan the card, a red ‘X’ comes up.”
The SMART tag will be used on every bus, for every campus and for every event whether it’s a field trip or sporting event.
Each bus is also equipped with a GPS system. When buses begin their routes, rider information is immediately available for the transportation administrators so they can oversee all school bus activity.
On Sept. 9, the Parent Portal will take effect allowing parents to log on to the school's website and download the SMART tag app to their phone.
"At a touch of a finger, they know where the bus is and they know where their child is - when the child got on the bus and when the child got off of the bus. It will also send an alert 15 minutes before the bus arrives at the bus stop. That gives the parents the comfort of knowing...It can even tell them when they missed the bus, so it gives parents easy in-hand information about where their child is, when they’re getting on, when they’re getting off and where they are at all times. They can track them themselves,” Woods said.
Woods said it’s important that students bring their tag with them every day to school because the tags will also be used for the cafeteria and, at most campuses, the library.
If a student loses their tag, they will be allowed five school days to find it before a fee will be charged in order for the student to be issued a new one.
“We’ve had very positive responses from parents and the campuses, as well as the bus drivers who absolutely love it. It is a very cool system,” Woods said. “It’s just bringing technology into transportation and it gives us a very real safety and security of our kids on the buses as well as a convenience to campuses, to the parents and it gives us a better accountability here in the office too.”
A couple of extra safety precautions will be put into place this year as well. Students who are in second grade and below will be required to have an adult present when they are picked up from the bus and all pre-k students will be in harnessed safety seats on the bus as well.
“The biggest thing is the safety of the students and having knowledge where they are at all times in our possession on the bus; that is absolutely the most important thing to me,” Woods added.