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Wisconsin school district tracks students on buses with GPS

HORTONVILLE — A Wisconsin school district is testing a system that uses GPS on buses to track students, which officials say will help improve safety.

Two buses used by the Hortonville Area School District have been keeping data on when students get on and off for the past two months. Wisconsin Public Radioreported.

The buses have UniteGPS system tablets, which accept swipes from about 130 student identification cards. The information is sent to a website that school officials can access in real time.

“Our parents appreciate the reasonable precautions we take to make sure that we not only provide a secure environment, but that we know exactly what’s going on in terms of their child’s safety,” said Scott Colantonio, technology director at the Hortonville district.

The pilot program aims to allow the district to more easily track students who may get on the wrong bus or miss a bus transfer, which can leave parents worrying about where their kids are, said Harry Steenbock, the district’s transportation director. Issues occur on a daily basis, but happen more frequently when a substitute driver is on a route.

“Nine times out of 10, they’re on the wrong bus and there was a substitute driver on that route,” Steenbock said.

District protocol instructs office staff to alert transportation staff about a missing or lost child. Bus drivers are then alerted to the situation and tasked with walking through the bus to locate the child.

The pilot program “allows our offices to be more effective in terms of being able to get that information in a more timely manner,” Colantonio said.

The school board recently voted to acquire 10 more tablets and issue additional ID cards.

The pilot program cost about $100,000 to launch. An additional $40,000 each year will be needed if the program continues. The district’s fleet carries about 3,400 students.

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