Officials happy with system that tracks young students on the bus

KENT -- School officials are trying a new pilot program to make sure a small child is never lost when they ride the bus.

Elizabeth Vasquez remembers being terrified when her oldest daughter got off the school bus at the wrong place.

“The first week of kindergarten at a different school," Vasquez said. "It took an hour for them to find her.”

This year, Elizabeth has another kindergartener riding the bus but this time there’s a system to give her peace of mind.

Ten buses in the Kent School District are testing state of the art tracking equipment. Kindergarteners who ride these buses have badges with bar codes attached to their backpacks. Students scan those cards when they get on and off. Every time a card is scanned, the exact location is marked on a map with a time stamp. If a child gets off at the wrong stop officials know exactly where and when it happened.

Chris Loftis, a spokesperson for the Kent School District, said, “There’s no silver bullet. We’re trying to use technology in a way that’s going to give us one more layer of protection for those children.”

Right now it’s just a pilot program, but this system can be a valuable tool in large scale emergencies. In a crash, officials would know who was on the bus and access contact information for parents.

Kent School District officials are happy with the program. They have received great feedback from parents. The pilot program will run through the rest of the school year and the district might expand it in the future.

The Tacoma School District uses this program in 13 elementary schools and will expand it to include 19 elementary schools next fall.