KEARNEY, Neb. — Parents and school district officials here will soon be able to easily find out whether a student boarded the correct school bus or exited at their assigned bus stop with the rollout of a new swipe card system.

Kearney Public Schools will begin using a software program called SMART Tag, created by Secured Mobility, a Texas-based vehicle security software and hardware security company, for its student security system.  

When boarding the bus, students will have assigned ID cards that they will tap on a card reader on the back of a tablet that is mounted in each school bus. The bus driver will be able to view the student’s information on the tablet, including a photo, assigned seat and stop, and medical needs.

The software can also send a text to the parents of the students to let them know their child boarded the bus or exited at the correct stop.

“This addresses safety issues that we have with students: whether they’re on the right bus, getting off at the correct stop,” said Becky Reier, the director of transportation at Kearney Public Schools, and the coordinator of the student security program. “We have some students that are unable to speak their name clearly enough for the driver to understand, and you can imagine the stress that puts on a driver. 'Where does this student go?' That’s a big concern.”

Smart Tag also has a pre-trip and post-trip feature and an administrative portal that Reier said will be very helpful for the transportation department, since they currently don't have many tasks that have been automated.

“We do use the Trip Direct [program] from SchoolDude for activity trips, but everything else is pen and paper and memory,” she explained.

Reier also put the program in place to help students more easily navigate the school bus system.

“Students who haven’t taken the school bus before will be assured once they step on the bus and touch the card reader with their card, ‘This is where I’m supposed to go.’ That’s a wonderful aspect for the students.”

Additionally, if students get on the wrong bus, an alarm goes off to notify them and the bus driver.

Reier hopes to have the program in place by the middle of this school year or by next summer, before the district opens its new high school next year, she said.

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