HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The Hillsborough County School District is launching a new bus tracking system to help communicate bus times with parents amid bus driver shortages.
HCPS is starting the school year short about 180 bus drivers. That’s up from last year when drivers were already running double and triple routes.
“Openly, we've struggled, along with every school district in the state of the nation, to be able to hire bus drivers,” Superintendent Addison Davis told ABC Action News.
The district is hoping to better communicate bus times with parents through new GPS technology with an app called Here Comes the Bus.
“It allows us, and the parents to identify when a student gets on the bus and when the student gets off the bus,” Davis explained. “It…creates a geofence to allow parents to identify how far the bus is away, so their students aren't sitting at a bus stop with particular safety issues.”
Each student riding the bus gets a card that they will scan when they get on and off the bus that will then allow their parent to see where the bus is on the app.
“Within that process of getting on and off the bus is an internet-enabled device that speaks to a server in the cloud somewhere, and it says that this ID number just checked in on the bus and then the bus has a GPS tracker on it, which then a parent can follow,” Tampa tech expert Greg Ross-Munro explained.
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He owns a company, Sourcetoad, that makes similar key cards for cruise ships and said parents don’t need to be concerned about their child being tracked or data privacy.
“It's very, very, very unlikely that somebody could set up a system to track a child using their card, their bus pass. It's not impossible, but it would be extremely expensive and there's much easier ways to track somebody,” he said.
He added that there’s a greater threat to your child’s privacy through others apps on their phones like games.
Davis said they are not capable of tracking students, but their goal is ultimately safety.
“It does allow us to create a safety mechanism and identify ridership, for those who are getting on and off the bus and make sure they get to and from school in the safest manner,” he said.
For parents downloading the app, the Hillsborough code is 75255.
The Pinellas County School District is rolling out a similar system this year; the ‘Bus Bulletin’ notification system will be replaced with Travel Tracker, a GPS system that will notify parents when a bus is running late or any other changes.