Waterloo buses testing student tracking system - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo buses testing student tracking system

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Waterloo Community Schools are testing new technology in their bus fleet to keep students safe.

It's called ZPass, and it uses iPads or tablets mounted on the dashboard to monitor who is getting on and off the bus. Students scan an ID card as they enter the bus, and the system logs them.

Last school year, a pilot program was conducted on buses serving Bunger Middle School.

School board president Mike Young said the new ZPass system will be tested on more buses serving Orange Elementary in the fall.

It's just an added safety step," Young said. "It also helps when there are substitute bus drivers."

But the software doesn't just take attendance – it also modifies the bus route in real-time based on which students are absent, so the bus doesn't drive to unnecessary stops.

Dan Bogart's 11-year-old daughter, Braley, catches the bus right in front of their home in Waterloo. He said, generally, he believes the system is a move in the right direction.

"It will provide a little more safety," he said.

But he's also concerned about his daughter's privacy.

"It just concerns me a little that we're beginning to track our children," he said."It's a public school, and it's government run … It just needs to be used for the purpose and limited purpose."

In the end though, Young said this is the next step in modernizing the bus fleet.

"As technology has improved in other walks of life, it doesn't seem to be used in school busing," Young said.

Now, that won't be the case for much long in Waterloo.

The trial at Orange Elementary will run until December of 2013. Then, the school board will decide whether to implement ZPass for the entire fleet.

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