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Washington County considers adding GPS to school buses

Madison Mathews • Jan 14, 2013 at 10:06 PM

The Washington County Board of Education is seriously considering installing Global Positioning System tracking systems to the county’s bus fleet.

Justin Wilczynski, a solutions consultant with Tyler Technologies, gave the board a presentation Monday about the company’s Versatrans system — an in-depth school transportation software system that essentially tracks every movement of a bus and its driver.

School officials began looking at the possibility of installing GPS tracking on its bus fleet following the September crash of a county school bus that injured 27 students.

The Versatrans GPS unit includes hardware and software that records detailed reports on bus maintenance, route planning, speed-monitoring, on-board diagnostics, audible alerts for drivers and driver behavior.

Wilczynksi said all of the information recorded by the GPS unit is sent to school staff for monitoring.

The Versatrans GPS unit also includes a web-based application that parents can use to keep track of their child’s bus, in addition to an on-board card-scanning capability that allows bus drivers and school officials to keep better track of who is riding a bus.

Washington County Schools already uses the Versatrans routing system for its bus fleet.

The addition of GPS to the county’s 100-plus buses would come at an installation cost of about $47,000 for hardware, software and training.

That price does not include retro-fitting the county’s buses that are older than 2007. It would cost about $12,500 to wire the systems into the older buses.

In addition to the startup costs, the county would likely look at annual fee of about $35,000 to maintain the Versatrans system once it’s installed.

Despite the high price tag, school board members were very pleased with the presentation and all the system offers.

School board member Phillip McLain asked Director of Schools Ron Dykes if they could afford adding the system to the upcoming year’s budget.

Dykes said without the assistance from the County Commission, they would not be able to budget the item.

“We’d have to have assistance under the current fiscal situation. We’d have to have assistance from the funding body. This does come under the Safety Committee. They have indicated they’d like to know what areas they can assist us with. This certainly might be one of those,” he said.

The school board asked Dykes to take the presentation to the Safety Committee next Tuesday.

If the item is approved and the school board is able to successfully budget the item, Dykes said he would like to see installation in time for next school year.

In other business, the school board voted to set this year’s graduation date on May 25.

The Saturday morning ceremony was decided after the board heard a special request from Daniel Boone High School senior Ciera Wilson, a Messianic Jew, during the board’s January meeting. Wilson asked the board to consider moving the graduation ceremony to Saturday evening so it would not conflict with religious activities.

Instead of moving the ceremony, the board opted to hold an additional graduation ceremony at a later date for those students who are unable to attend the May 25 graduation.

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