Magnolia schools to upgrade bus security

The Magnolia Public School district board discusses the implementation of Transportant. (Joshua Turner / Banner News)
The Magnolia Public School district board discusses the implementation of Transportant. (Joshua Turner / Banner News)

On Monday, the Magnolia Public School Board voted to change the bus security systems to Transportant.

Transportant is a school bus logistics and security company based out of Kansas City, Kansas. They provide services that include live video feeds, bus tracking, student tracking and driver assistance technology.

Previously, MPS buses relied on cameras that recorded video to a hard drive inside the camera but they are now switching to live video cameras that stream and record footage online.

Superintendent John "Skipper" Ward said, "The implementation of this -- you start out with cameras and then you move to the mobile app. They don't just throw it on everybody at one time. So it's a process ...to make sure it's done correctly. So, you know, I don't expect it to solve all of our transportation woes, but I think it will, it will help especially the routing piece. The camera piece is a really nice feature on that. Currently, if there's an issue, we have to go over there, physically get on the bus, pull the camera hard drive out, download it onto a computer and then send that over to the principal's office. Principals will have access to Charlotte, who sits over there in the Transportation office, she can see all that going real-time, where all the buses are."

Many of the features will be available for both parents and the district to access, including live video and GPS information on where buses are and if they are running late.

The driver assistance technology, CoPilot, is a mounted tablet that gives bus drivers a full breakdown of their routes with turn-by-turn instructions, student names and pictures, pre- and post-trip procedures and an emergency incident button to contact administration and emergency services if needed.

According to Ward, the last feature to be implemented will be student tracking.

Student tracking allows students to check into the bus by tapping a card or key fob when getting on and off. The technology can record the location and time a student gets on and off the bus.

"I think that it's a good product. The people I've talked to are pleased with it. So I believe it would be considered a good purchase for us," said Ward.

School Board member Jason Ray asked, "Are we picking high resolution of the standard resolution?, "Do you know what the resolution is?" and "If you have an issue on the bus, the operator who does cameras, will they have the ability to zoom in and focus on a particular area?"

Ward said that the plan is to use the standard resolution package as he did not see a significant difference between the two options. He said he was unsure if the cameras can zoom in, but that there will be four of them on each bus and they have both video and audio feeds.

The hardware cost and installation were estimated at $95,312 on the bid given by Transportant.

There is also a $1,560 software fee for each year.

According to Ward, the district currently pays a subscription fee for software related to their current cameras, which will be redirected to cover the new yearly fees. He did not say how much the current subscription costs.

Bentonville school district became the first district in Arkansas to implement Transportant when school began last fall.

The board voted unanimously to implement Transportant services.

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