High-tech tracking system aims to improve safety on school buses


    LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- A new high-tech tracking system is being tested in Lakewood in an effort to improve student safety on school buses. It is system pinpointing where every student is at every moment.

    The beeping you hear when students board buses means that student is now being tracked by the Clover Park School District. Each time the students get on and off the school bus they electronically sign in and sign out.

    That way if there's an accident, the transportation headquarters will know exactly who's on the bus. Same for an emergency evacuation. School officials will know where every student went.

    It will especially help in cases like the one involving a little girl named Olivia. The kindergartner at Tillicum elementary has been hard to keep track of.

    "Earlier in the school year she was let off at the wrong stop a couple of times," said Olivia's mother Lauren Ahlbin.

    Olivia's father Brian Ahlbin has had similar problems.

    "One time I had to go looking for her," he said. "But this time I know when she gets on and gets off. So I think it's a great idea."

    It is called Z-Pass from the Seattle company Zonar.

    A special bonus with the Z-Pass should a child fall asleep in the back seat and doesn't get off, they'll know right away. The bus drivers already press a red button at the back of the bus when they check. This is a second safeguard.

    "We'll also know in the office who that particular student is within that moment's notice," said Clover Park School District transportation director Delphie Nielsen.

    Each of the district's school buses already has GPS tracking and cameras on board. Now there is this pilot project at four schools to see if realtime student tracking is worth the $50,000 expense to install it district-wide.

    The Tacoma and Kent school districts are already using various forms of the Z-Pass to keep track of their school bus kids.

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