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Bus tracking tool gives parents peace of mind

Denver Public Schools equipping buses with kiosk where students swipe passes before they get on or off
Students in Denver Public Schools swipe a bus pass before they get on or off. The date, time, and location are recorded on a secure website that parents and administrators can access.

With the swipe of a bus pass, Denver Public Schools students are answering the often-asked parent question, “Did my child get on the bus today?” Denver joins other districts in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, and North Carolina trying to improve safety by using a system that tracks when and where students get on and off buses.

Each Denver Public Schools bus will be equipped with a kiosk where students swipe their pass before they get on or off. The date, time, and location are recorded on the same, secure, web-based program parents are already using to check children’s homework and test scores.

The district began piloting the program, called Pass+, in some schools in April. Starting in October, the passes will be issued to the district’s 26,000 bus-riding students. By January, it will be used in all schools, says district spokesperson Kristy Armstrong.

Different companies are rolling out these types of programs nationwide. Parents in Boston Public Schools can log into a website operated by Veolia Transportation Inc. to see the location of their child’s bus on Google maps, as well as where it has been for the last two minutes.

In North Carolina, 13 districts are using a system from Synovia Solutions that gives school officials detailed information about each bus in their fleet, including the travel speed and time spent at each stop. And in Illinois, some districts use an ID scanning system from Zonar Systems that’s similar to what is used in Denver.

“Parents have really welcomed having this data available to them—it’s brought peace of mind to our families that schools can answer quickly and accurately what time and where students got on and off the bus,” Armstrong says. The number one question parents ask the transportation department is if their student got on the bus after school, she adds.

There have been no complaints about privacy, as the data is not public and parents are only able to access their own student’s information, Armstrong says.

The system will cost about $748,000 over three years, of which $100,000 comes from a grant, and the rest from the general budget, Armstrong says.