GPS keeps track of Chicago-area school bus riders

Palos Heights School District 128 is among a growing number of school systems using GPS technology to keep track of whether students get on and off their buses safely, reports Superintendent Kathleen Casey researched the technology last year after a first-grade student missed his stop, remaining on the bus as it rolled by his grandmother who stood waiting for him. Casey said the child never left the bus, but for 20 minutes, school officials and family members raced to find him. “It’s a terrifying experience,” she said, adding that she hopes the technology will help if future incidents occur. About 5 percent of the 490,000 school buses that transport kids across the country are believed to use the student tracking technology, according to the National Association for Pupil Transportation. “It’s absolutely growing, and I think exponentially,” said Executive Director Mike Martin. Palos Heights officials assigned the ID tags to 400 students in preschool through fifth grade. Teachers clipped a card to each student’s book bag. From her office, transportation director Barbara Lynch can check when a student boards or exits a bus or when a bus leaves the school. If a parent calls to inquire about a late student, Lynch or the school secretaries—the only ones able to log into the system—can determine the bus’s location along the route and whether a particular child is on board. The system updates every 30 seconds and uses GPS technology to track the buses. Students are logged in to the bus using radio frequency identification (RFID). The district paid $16,000 for the technology on 10 school buses—a price that included the RFID cards, which cost $3.25 each…

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