Anne Arundel County Public Schools started a pilot “bus badge” program Wednesday that will run through the rest of the academic year for six schools.
Schools provided each bus rider with an identification card containing a chip that students will scan as they get on and off the bus each day.
The school system hopes to use the data to improve transportation efficiency, increase safety, determine who’s on and off the bus in case of an emergency, and explore other potential projects involving cards, such as a systemwide ID card or one used for school meal transactions.
“It’s important to know that this program does not provide real-time data on school bus ridership, bus location or things of that nature, and it is not an app that family can track daily,” Superintendent Mark Bedell explained at the school board meeting earlier this month.
The badge program is only used to collect data for AACPS at this point, but Bob Mosier, the chief communication officer for the system, said there’s a possibility for more features, such as real-time data, to be rolled out in the future.
Participating schools are Crofton High, Crofton Middle, Crofton Elementary, Crofton Meadows Elementary, Crofton Woods Elementary and Nantucket Elementary schools, and the data collected will establish if the program could be useful countywide.
“We chose this group of schools because it is one of the smallest by population in the county, and also, Crofton High isn’t a magnet school, so there are less buses in use,” Mosier said.
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The badges do not correspond to sensitive student information, just a randomly generated number that is only meaningful to the program, according to the school system website.
Mosier emphasized that no child will be turned away from the bus because they don’t have their badge, but program results are based heavily on participation.
Although there is a possibility that use of the cards could cause slight bus delays as students become accustomed to the program, appropriate adjustments will be made as it progresses, Mosier said.
The badges are only used for riders going to and from school, not field trips or other events.
Zonar Systems, one of North America’s largest telematics companies, is providing the pilot badge program for the county for free.
“If we believe there is value, then we believe this is something that can be replicated across the clusters once we get our data,” Bedell said at the meeting.