West Garfield schools keeping track of buses
PARACHUTE, Colorado – Though Garfield County District 16 has a relatively small fleet of just eight school buses, keeping track of where they are at a given time is still important.
When the district switched to a four-day school week this year, it was unable to continue leasing its buses as it had done in the past. Instead, it had to buy its own buses, D-16 Superintendent Ken Haptonstall said.
“We didn’t used to own our buses, but now that we do we thought it would be a good idea to install a tracking system,” Haptonstall said.
All of the buses serving Parachute and Battlement Mesa schools, as well as three Chevrolet Suburbans that the district uses for student transportation, are now equipped with Zonar technology.
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The GPS-based tracking system allows Haptonstall and a handful of other district officials to be notified via email or cell phone text alert whenever a bus breaks down or encounters any other problems.
“We do get those calls that a bus didn’t stop where it was supposed to, or that a bus was seen speeding,” Haptonstall said. “The system lets us log on and check back and tell where a bus was at a given time.”
Mostly, though, it’s an added safety measure, he said.
“We have buses taking students to activities all over the state, and if a bus breaks down somewhere we want to know as soon as possible so we can deal with it,” Haptonstall said.
“It just gives us some added assurance that what’s supposed to be happening is happening,” he said.
The system cost about $8,000 to install, and requires an annual subscription renewal of about $1,500, he said.
The much larger Garfield School District Re-2, which includes public schools in Rifle, Silt and New Castle, is also looking at installing the Zonar tracking system on its fleet of 40 buses.
“It’s something we’re exploring as part of a larger package of school safety and security measures,” said Theresa Hamilton, Re-2’s director of districtwide services.
“It’s just one component, as we continue to look at student safety and try to come up with some grants and other funding to accomplish that,” she said.
Because Re-2 has a much larger bus fleet, and covers a much bigger area, the cost would be significant, she said.
“It’s not something we can do completely out of our general fund,” Hamilton said.
But, with the district’s buses covering about 428,000 miles annually, a tracking system is something the school board has identified as an important part of its school and student safety efforts.
Zonar systems can also be upgraded to include tracking systems for individual students, called ZPass . The added safety measure ensures students get on and off the bus when and where they are supposed to.
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