ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — The Round Rock Independent School District is expanding its test program for tracking school bus riders district-wide.
The ‘Smart Tag’ program uses scannable identification cards to monitor who’s getting on and off school buses.
Right now, the tags are on all of Round Rock’s elementary, middle and special buses.
By March 4, the program will be up and running at all 55 campuses.
The district also has 44 spare buses which are used when a regular bus is out of commission. By August, the system will be on all of the district’s spare buses as well.
“We’ve never had a lost child,” said Round Rock’s Transportation Director, Tina Fausett. “We always call it ‘misplaced.’ A lot of times, the child was never put on the bus or never got on the bus.”
The system tracks those loopholes by having a student scan their identification card when they get on the bus.
“Sixteen years ago, when I started as a Transportation Director, we did everything on paper. Now everything is paperless. That’s just the way the world is going,” said Fausett.
With the digital evolution, one parent reached out to KXAN worried about privacy and hacking — suggesting that a parent should be able to opt out of the program if he/she chooses. RRISD says a student must have a card to access the buses.
The only thing on the Smart Tags is a student’s name, a GPS system is not tracking the student. The Smart Tag uses radio frequency technology to connect to a digital screen on the bus when scanned.
“It’s a digital system that allows us to know when and where a student boards and exits the bus,” said Jenny Caputo, RRISD spokesperson. “The data is stored securely with the district as all our student information and data is.”
District leaders says the card acts as a library or cafeteria card. Parents can use an app to check if their child is on the right bus route.
The project is funded through a 2018 approved bond. The bond amount is for all transportation safety and security upgrades, which included Smart Tag, video surveillance and GPS systems for buses come out to $2.9 million.