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Bus GPS seen as plus for county

All 110 buses in the Washington County Schools fleet now have a GPS system, which has helped the district monitor the buses while keeping them operating safely.
“We can literally track our buses,” Assistant Director of Schools Roy Gillis said at the Washington County Department of Education meeting on Oct. 2.
Gillis said by tracking the buses, there are certain things they can identify quickly and avoid having a bus sitting on the road broken down.
“As soon as those things are identified, we can pull them off the road. Randy (Adams, transportation services department supervisor) will have them brought into the bus garage. They will be checked out and repaired if needed and back on the road,” Gillis said. “It creates much less turmoil when those kids get home on time, than if a bus is stranded out there waiting on another bus to come and pick up a group of kids to get them home.”
If some type of alert is made through the GPS system, it is sent to Adams’ phone and then reviewed and looked into further.
Director of Technology Curtis Fullbright provided a visual of bus 24-13 between 6:45 a.m. and 7:45 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 2.
The visual showed the school board what route the bus took, as well as when the bus driver stepped on the brakes and came to a stop. It also projected a time of when the bus should arrive at the designated school.
The system will also notify personnel if a possible accident occurred and if there was speed acceleration or deceleration. Gillis said if a deer ran in front of a bus, an alert of harsh braking will be sent. The system can also detect if a bus is sitting in traffic due to a previous accident.
“We know if the accident occurs if the bus does not move any further,” Gillis said.
The system also monitors the buses’ speeds.
“We can report them speeding over an x number of miles per hour,” he said.
In addition to the GPS system, each school bus driver is issued a cell phone that they can use to call to report any issues.
“Each bus has a designated cell phone, and it does stay on the bus all the time,” Gillis said.
The data from the GPS system is kept for 60 days, Fullbright said, because that is as much data as the system can hold.
Gillis said the six mechanics who work in the bus garage do a fantastic job of keeping the fleet on the road.
“We do have a strong fleet of buses in our county,” he said.
He thanked the school board for adding the GPS equipment to the fleet during last week’s board meeting.
“This equipment has so made a difference in our transportation program in Washington County,” he said.
In other business:
The board approved the acceptance of Washington County Commission resolution 14-08-3 in the amount of $277,307 in one time funding for a gas boiler at Lamar Elementary, replacement and upgrade for fire alarms, phones and intercom systems.
The board approved the acceptance of Washington County Commission resolution 14-09-12 in the amount of $1.3 million in one time funding for response to intervention positions, formative assessment software technology, vehicles and a onetime bonus for all employees.
Dykes also recommended that the school district waive the first reading of the Tobacco-Free Schools policy and make it effective immediately after the second reading.
The new verbiage: “For purposes of this policy, smoking includes, but is not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and other devices that produce smoke, and also includes gases, particles, or vapors. Smoking also includes simulated smoking, such as an electronic cigarette, including e-cigarettes, e-cigar, e-pipe, or under any other product name.”