In a bid to set parents' nerves at ease, a southwest suburban school district has become one of the first in the state to begin tracking students riding buses to and from school each day with Global Positioning System and Radio Frequenty Identification technology.
Palos Heights School District 128 had previously been using ZPass, a GPS technology provided by Seattle-based Zonar Systems, to track the buses. But now the district is outfitting students' backpacks with a luggage tag-sized unit that logs when the student steps on and off the bus.
"A little piece of mind helps you get through the day," said Ann O'Brien, a mother of four children in Palos Heights School District 128. "They can locate kid and bus in seconds."
Palos School Superintendent Kathleen Casey said the system helps alleviate parents' concerns.
"We can track the bus with the GPS, alleviate a parent's fear if they got on or off bus, look up their ID number and find out what bus and what time boarded or if still on or exited," she said.
The district spent $16,000 for the technology, which currently covers 10 buses. Parents say the cost is minimal for the benefits.
"As a parent, the safety of your child taking a bus is a number one concern" says Leslie Baudo.
Last year, Baudo's son was over an hour late coming home. If that happens again, Baudo can now simply call the school and get immediate information from the secure database, making the waiting game just a little bit easier.