GPS gets GPS, bus passes for safe ride home

Students at Whitetail Creek Elementary file off the bus for the first day of school Thursday in Gretna. As a new safety and security feature, students have individual bus passes to track when and where they get on and off the bus.

As Gretna Public Schools started on Thursday, nearly half of its student body will be traveling to and from school by bus this year.

To help meet the security and safety needs of these students, the district has installed GPS tracking devices in each bus, as well as scanners for individual student bus passes.

“It’s just another level of security for our students,” Superintendent Kevin Riley said.

He said the idea came to the district during the 2010 bond issue, when the schools were looking to address comprehensive safety and security issues. The issue of bus safety, Riley said, became a central theme.

“We transport around 1,800 to 2,000 students a day,” he said. “You end up with an hour or so a day that we have 2,000 students on our buses.”

With so many students on the school’s transportation system, Riley said charting their safety became an even larger priority.

In the new system, Gretna Public Schools will be able to track and locate each of its buses during their routes. Additionally, using the GPS system, Riley said the schools will be able to tell which student gets off at which stop by the new student bus passes.

“Once the bus driver knows the kids, they know when they get on and off,” he said.

While most times a driver will question why a student will leave the bus early, he said sometimes a student will insist on debarking with a friend.

As students are required to scan their pass on entering and exiting the bus, should a student step off at a different stop and a parent call the district to report his or her child not home, Gretna Public Schools can quickly identify when and where the child got off the bus to help locate the student.

“It gives us another step in communicating their whereabouts,” Riley said.

Gretna Public Schools launched the system on Thursday, and Riley said it is the only district he is aware of in the area that uses such a program.

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