- Smith Middle School
New Communication and Safety Program for Buses and Riders
The Cleburne ISD Board of Trustees has approved the purchase of a new program that will enhance communication between school bus drivers, campuses and parents while also addressing the safety of the precious cargo on board.
At the April 20 school board meeting, conducted via ZOOM videoconferencing, the purchase of Secured Mobility Authorized Ridership Technology—SMART Tag—for the CISD Transportation Department was approved for implementation in the upcoming school year.
Students who receive transportation services, as well as those who board buses for field trips and extracurricular activities, will be issued a SMART Tag ID card. Utilizing digital technology, the SMART Tag will log a student’s “boarding event” which includes a timestamp, location and verification that the student is on the correct bus. A check-out procedure documents the time the student leaves the bus while also verifying they are getting off at the correct stop. More than 2,000 CISD students ride the bus on a regular basis. The district operates 40 home-to-school routes.
Every bus driver will be equipped with a digital tablet that is internet connected to campuses, administrators and the Transportation Center, allowing immediate verification of students who have checked in for boarding, as well as notifications of route delays or related concerns.
Through the SMART Tag Parent Portal, parents can access up-to-date boarding/departure activity relating to their child. They can also sign up for text alerts to let them know when their child is 10-15 minutes away from their drop-off point. Parents of special needs students can receive morning text messages when the bus is 10-15 minutes away from picking up their child.
“We have been seeking ways to improve communications between our bus drivers, schools and parents,” Transportation Director Dr. Chad VanWinkle said. “The SMART Tag program addresses that and also integrates with our Skyward student information system. We will be able to know the status of our buses and passengers at all times. Our drivers will receive alerts if the wrong kid is on their bus or a student is about to get off at the wrong stop.”
“This will help us be more efficient in communication and student safety, as well as in an unforeseen situation,” VanWinkle said. “On a regular route or on a field trip, if a bus is experiencing a delay in arrival due to a mechanical issue, an emergency or an accident that has tied up in traffic, we will know immediately. I know this will be a great help to parents who are waiting in the school parking lot for students who are traveling back from away games and competitions. Parents will receive alerts to know when the bus is a few minutes from arrival, or is running early. It’s a great addition to our services.”
Trustee June Bates made the motion approving the $115,000 purchase for the SMART Tag program in its first year of implementation. The cost includes equipment, materials and training for drivers and Transportation Center staff.
“This protects our kids and our people,” Bates said. “I think parents will be very pleased with the benefits of this new program.”
The SMART Tag system, which was developed by a bus driver, will also provide information and data in formulating rider and bus activity reports, as well as quick response in locating a student and the continual monitoring of buses while they are en route.
The Cleburne ISD Transportation Department will be implementing the SMART Tag system for school bus drivers and passengers in the upcoming school year. The program, approved by Trustees at the April 20 school board meeting, enhances communication between drivers, campuses and parents while also addressing the safety of riders.