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Katy ISD to Install Tech on Buses to Track Student Riders

Katy Independent School District in Texas is working with RFID Services and SMART Tag to install radio-frequency identification systems in buses, allowing parents and the district to track students as they enter and exit.

School bus
(TNS) — Katy ISD parents of bus riders will have an added level of technology for their children starting this fall.

For the 2023-24 school year, Katy ISD will be implementing radio-frequency identification systems in all district school buses, enabling parents and the district to track the movement of students as they enter and exit buses.

On Monday, the school board approved an almost $1.3 million contract with RFID Services and SMART Tag to install equipment on buses that will monitor ridership, district documents show.

The system will track where and when a student is picked up or dropped off by a school bus, said media relations representative Maria DiPetta.

The district has utilized GPS systems on their buses since 2019, but only the bus' movement could be tracked. Information regarding the students themselves is unavailable through current devices.

The system will require each student bus rider to have a Katy ISD SMART Tag ID card, which they will use every time they enter and exit their school bus. Buses will be equipped with a tablet that will read students' IDs, providing real-time information for bus drivers, school administrators and parents.

"The student ID cards utilize encryption and security protocols to ensure student ridership is accurately tracked and individual information is secure," explained Ted Vierling, the district's chief operations officer. "The system will provide real-time bus arrival notifications for school parents and our transportation personnel."

Parents will be able to monitor their child's ridership and bus route through the SMART Tag Parent Web Portal, which is a cloud-based portal, DiPetta said. The system also automates a number of reporting functions for transportation department personnel such as state rider count and mileage reports.

Klein ISD last month integrated the same tracking system on buses.

The installation will take place over the summer and the system will be deployed on the first day of school in August 2023, DiPetta said.

Funding for the technology comes from the 2021 bond, district records show. Following the initial installation costs, operation will cost the district about $197,000 per year to maintain. Recurring fees will be funded from the district's general operating fund.

©2023 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.