Chesapeake schools approve funding for new radios and GPS to track buses

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CHESAPEAKE, Va. – The Chesapeake School Board voted to approve its budget at Monday night’s meeting, including funding for technology that will improve the school system's ability to track buses.

According to Kellie Goral with Chesapeake City Public Schools, next year all buses will be equipped with a new radio system and GPS/AVL (automatic vehicle location.)

The radios will be on the city’s P25 radio system which offers the highest level of security.

The bid that was approved at Monday’s meeting for GPS/AVL was with a company called Zonar.  The first year it will cost $291,617.88.  There is an option to extend for four additional one year periods with a cost of $264,413 annually.

The new radio system will be through Tactical Public Safety, LLC and will have a one-time cost of around $1.5 million.  The annual maintenance cost is still being determined.

Goral says the new technology will be a huge benefit because it will allow the school system to track buses in real time.

In the past, parents have raised concerns about not knowing where buses are when they're running late.

The goal is to have the radios and GPS installed on all buses by the start of the school year.

In the future, there may also be an app that allows parents to track their child’s specific bus, but they have not purchased that option for the upcoming school year.

Several other school systems already have the technology in place.

Franklin City Public Schools started using the app ‘Spot My Bus’ in December.

Lawrence Whiting, operations coordinator, told News 3 that it’s made a big difference.

Whiting says it has cut down on the number of calls they get from parents.  It has also reduced the amount of time kids spend waiting at their bus stop in the morning since they can see how far away their bus is, which is especially beneficial in bad weather.

In the first couple of weeks after the app was available, 30 percent of parents signed up for it, and at the time it was only available on Android devices.  It’s been expanded to iPhones since then.

Portsmouth Public Schools recently installed GPS devices on their buses and are working to make an app available to parents as well.  Ari Durall with Portsmouth Public Schools says they plan to test the app during summer school.

If everything goes well, it may be available for all parents for the 2016-2017 school year.  The app that goes along with their system is called ‘Here Comes the Bus.’

Newport News Public Schools started using the ‘Here Comes the Bus’ app at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

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