tracking system on school buses. Six buses were equipped with GPS units, card stripe readers and software from VersaTrans Solutions and TracerNET.

Each morning, bus drivers swiped their ID cards through the reader, which downloaded a list of authorized student riders for each bus. When students boarded the buses, they also swiped their ID cards. As each bus pulled away from each stop, the vehicle's location and names of its riders were transmitted back to the school's transportation center using a cellular-based data-only messaging service.

Although school officials felt the program was successful, it was not continued beyond its three-month trial because of staffing changes. Officials hope to use the system again.

Another safety concern prompted a similar system installation in Indian River County, Fla. In 1999, a school bus full of elementary students collided with a citrus truck, killing two students and injuring a dozen. School officials wanted to know exactly who was on the bus, but had no way to find out.

A combination GPS and student ID tracking program is being tested in the district, and school officials hope it will prevent a reoccurrence of that scenario. The system, supplied by Integrated Systems Research of Miami, will incorporate a thumbprint reader or an infrared card reader on each bus. Students will place their thumb on a scanner or present their student ID as they board and depart each bus. By sending the GPS data through an incorporated Nextel system, the school's central computer will keep a running list of which students are on which bus.

The pilot system has been installed on 10 of the district's buses, with plans for a student identification system to be added this fall.

Justine Brown  |  Contributing Writer