ESCANABA - The Escanaba School Board authorized the purchase of technology upgrades for district school buses at Monday's school board meeting.
The board's approval authorizes purchasing upgrades for Versatrans Bus System software through Tyler Technologies at the initial cost of $25,442, with a yearly cost of $6,150 thereafter.
According to Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire, the district has had good experience with Versatrans in the past, as Escanaba Area Public Schools currently uses routing software through Versatrans for mapping purposes. Currently, the district pays approximately $5,000 a year for the software system, which allows them to input addresses, and then plot out the most efficient way for a school bus to get to that address.
The primary reason for upgrading to what is referred to as a telematic GPS system is for increased student safety, she said.
"We would be able to see where a bus is at any given time - actually see it," said Lemire, who compared the program to Google Maps. The new upgrades would allow the district to tell exactly where a bus is located on the map in real-time and will be useful in communicating with parents. For example, if a parent calls asking about why a bus may be late, the software can tell where the bus currently is and has been.
Lemire noted the software can also assist with engine diagnostics and can communicate with the bus garage. It can also be used for estimating time of buses traveling to and from certain events, such as athletic events.
"That way, hopefully, parents will be able to have an accurate idea about when the bus is going to be coming back from an event, so that would help with that," she explained. Additionally, the system will provide upgrades to the district's bus maps, which are currently 18 years old.
The upgrades will make the maps more accurate and include new roads that have been created in the last 18 years.
The board discussed the option to purchase the upgrades, which after the initial fee of approximately $25,000, will cost the district roughly $6,000 a year. When added to the approximate $5,000 the district pays for the routing system currently in place, this equates to a total of $11,000 a year total for the bus technology.
The board voted 5 to 2 to approve the upgrades, with trustees Marilyn Noble and Will Carne voting in opposition. Carne specifically requested more information before making a decision.
Lemire said following the meeting now that the board has authorized the purchase for the upgrades, the system will likely be implemented in the next couple months.
In other business, the board:
approved to post a full-time custodian 1 position at the junior/senior high school due to the extra square footage resulting from the construction project. Lemire noted there is also a need for a custodian due to the addition of seventh and eighth grades to the building.
approved to post a full-time maintenance helper position to assist with the repair and maintenance of the district's physical equipment and grounds.
approved to post a locker room assistant position by contracting services through the Professional Education Services Group for the junior/senior high school. Lemire said this is in the interest of student safety and to make sure the facilities are well cared for. Currently the boys' locker room does not have a gym teacher who can monitor it since the only gym teachers in the school are females and since cameras are not allowed in the locker room area.