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District considers GPS on school buses

Tribune Staff

Published:   |   Updated: September 3, 2014 at 04:38 PM

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BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board this week heard how the school district could save money and improve student safety through a program that uses GPS to track buses.

Through the program designed by Synovia Solutions, based in Indianapolis, students would swipe credit card-like passes when entering or leaving a bus, helping drivers ensure that students are at the right stop.

On Aug. 22, the mother of a Brooksville Elementary School kindergartner was upset after her son got off the bus at the wrong stop.

“This is a solution to limit that from reoccurring,” said Doug Compton, the district's transportation director. “Student safety is our No. 1 priority. We take it seriously. Anything we can do to improve that, I want to get it done.”

Synovia account manager Peter Nemeth told the board that the district can realize savings, as the program can monitor a vehicle's idling, speed and route efficiency, and alert drivers when the vehicle's battery is low.

The program can also record when a driver goes more than 5 mph over the speed limit, and there is a component that could tell parents when their child's bus will arrive. The presentation was made during a School Board workshop.

Nemeth and Synovia sales director Ed Kane said the program can help reduce accidents, fuel, maintenance costs and aggressive driving. It would take up to seven weeks to install the system on the district's 165 buses.

Synovia wants the district to consider a five-year contract, costing just over $61,000 a year.

“I think it's a great opportunity,” Compton said. “After the first year, if we don't like it, we can back out of the contract.”

School Board Member John Sweeney said he supports tracking buses, but not students and employees.

“If we limit privacy in the name of student safety, we will eventually have neither,” Sweeney said.

School Board Member Matt Foreman said the program sounds good “in theory.”

“If it's something Doug Compton's pushing for, I'm OK with it going to a formal vote,” Foreman said. “That would give us time to gather more information.

“I think it's a worthwhile consideration.”

The board agreed to consider the proposal at its Sept. 16 meeting.

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