SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — A school district here is rolling out technology designed to enhance student safety by managing student location information for drivers and letting parents access their child’s transportation information.
Over the next few months, Saratoga Springs City School District is introducing Tyler Drive in its school bus fleet. The solution includes software and a tablet that is mounted near the bus driver. The tablet provides drivers with turn-by-turn directions to each stop on their route and manages student ridership data, which is reported in real time to the district’s transportation office.
At each stop, Tyler Drive displays the names and photos of students who should be boarding or exiting at that location. All students will be issued a radio frequency identification (RFID) scan card, which will act as their ID when boarding and leaving the school bus.
The card will also contain each student’s photo, name, and barcode so that the card can be utilized as an ID card for other district-related purposes. Students will be required to carry cards with them at all times and to use them each time they board and exit the school bus. If a student forgets or loses their card, the driver is able to register them manually on the tablet.
“This is really big when you think about how tough a job it can be for substitute drivers, especially if we have to spring someone on a bus route they have never been on at the last minute,” said Cheryl Dalton, director of transportation for Saratoga Springs City School District. “It will provide accurate time and attendance for drivers and aides.”
The system can also make it easier for school bus drivers to keep both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel, because they will no longer have to rely on paper lists and directions while driving, Dalton added.
To alleviate concerns about drivers being distracted by the screen while driving, Dalton noted that the screen is blacked out while the driver is driving and lights up when the bus is stopped.
Drivers can also use the tablets to conduct pre-trip inspections, and data collected on the mileage for each run and which students rode on those routes will provide ease in preparing state reports, Dalton said. Additionally, in the event of a school bus accident, the transportation department would be able to generate a real-time report to find out which students are on the bus.
“We would be able to email that to the school nurse and appropriate authorities right away,” Dalton said.
There is no student information stored on the card, according to the district.
Another new system feature is Versatrans e-Link, an online student transportation information portal designed to enable parents to access their child’s transportation information and bus schedules at any time.
“This is just peace of mind for everyone,” Dalton said.
The district will implement the technology at eight schools in three phases, starting in late January, she added.
In the fall, the district plans to add MyStop, an app that parents can use to see when the bus will arrive at their child's stop and when their child boarded the bus.
In the future, the district hopes to use the RFID card as a multipurpose card, allowing students to use it to check out library books or buy lunch at school.