Photo By Madison Perez
This school year student ID scanners were installed on every bus in Central Unified. The district collaborated with the company Smart Tag to implement the new system intended to improve route efficiency and increase student safety by assisting bus drivers, administration, and parents in tracking the location of any student.
The system works by linking a student’s information from the existing Aeries student database with the SMART Tag ID system. When a student scans their ID on a connected tablet installed on each bus, it gives the driver a view of that information before allowing a student to board. However, with new students coming in throughout the year, information will need to be constantly monitored and updated.
The Central Transportation Department was the starting point for the scanners. After Assistant Director Crystal Lanfranco proposed the benefits of adding the scanners, the Central Unified Cabinet and the Board of Trustees approved a pilot program at Polk Elementary. Once the testing program verified the effectiveness of the system, Transportation began working on extending the system districtwide and making the required modifications.
Even after the pilot program, extensive testing was necessary with student safety at stake. The Smart Tag implementation was arduous, but Lanfranco said any effort is worthwhile when it comes to keeping students out of harm’s way. “Our district is all about putting safety first, and this system helps us establish the highest level of safety for all of our students on all of our buses,” stated Lanfranco.
Because scanners log information that tracks when and where a student gets on or off a bus, they offer reassurance to both employees and parents that students are more closely accounted for while traveling between campuses or to and from home. The SMART Tag ID system is also a useful tool during emergencies. If a bus were to breakdown, get into an accident, or in a worst-case scenario, be hijacked, the live roster allows the names of everyone on board, as well as their immediate location, to be accessed by district personnel.
Despite the extra step scanners entail when boarding students, bus drivers are also largely in favor of the scanners. “I actually really like them. They help us a lot. They let us know who’s on our bus, and if they’re [students] just trying to ride on the bus with friends and they don’t have a pass we know,” stated district bus driver Carrie Fisher. After the early glitches were worked out, Fisher says the scanners appear to be working well.
At the beginning of the year, many students were unsure of how the system would benefit them, and some disliked the scanners due to the extra responsibility required, like carrying a student ID card at all times. Sophomore Jakob Valencia stated, “If you don’t have your ID, some bus drivers won’t accept you onto the bus, and that could be your only transportation.” Now, students seem less bothered by the new system. Sophomore Jazmin Quintana initially felt similar to Valencia, but gradually got used to the process. “At this point, I really don’t care because it became routine. It’s something we do every day,” explained Quintana.
Another concern was the costliness of the SMART Tag ID system. Central Unified District spent $127,000 on this system including the scanner hardware. Lanfranco responded, “It’s a one-time cost to implement this system into the district.” She added this would not only alleviate parents’ worries about their child’s whereabouts but decrease the paid time employees spend tracking them down. “So with the number of phone calls that we get in regard to people looking for their children, we’re now able to answer them and decrease that level of frustration or anxiety of people not knowing where their kiddos are,” explained Lanfranco.
The Transportation Department remains optimistic about the SMART Tag ID system and is willing to respond to any parent’s concern. Later on, the district is hoping to start up a parent portal for SMART Tag that would notify parents when their student is close to their bus stop, and allow them to see when and where their student got on or off a bus, bringing student safety to a whole new level.