Newton school buses to have tracking and monitoring software installed

COVINGTON — Buses in the Newton County School System will be more easily tracked and monitored with new software that will be installed in the upcoming school year.

Unanimously approved by the Newton Board of Education at its meeting on Tuesday, the purchase of software from Tyler Technologies Inc. will be implemented in 2014-15. Based out of Plano, Texas, Tyler Technologies already provides NCSS with routing and planning, fleet management and field trip scheduling software, which will be fully integrated with the new software being purchased.

The routing and planning software already installed will be incorporated with the new program to enable real time GPS diagnostics and alerts, providing immediate and accurate information about bus locations as well as accurate departure and arrival time reporting. It will also allow for route adjustments based on actual route data, and immediate access to route information such as location of stops, stop times and speed.

According to Tyler Technologies’ website, the Versatrans My Stop web application provides bus information to parents, guardians and students to let them know exactly where their school bus is and what time it will show up at their stop — all from a smart phone or tablet. NCSS Director of Support Services Mike Barr stated, “the technology is available, and is being researched and evaluated. All efforts are being made to ensure the appropriate balance between accessibility of information and the safety and security of students.”

NCSS will have a more accessible way to oversee the upkeep of the buses themselves as well. The new technology will provide on-board diagnostic monitoring to keep and eye on aspects such as low battery voltage, changes in oil pressure and the engine light indicator.

Additionally, school bus drivers will be provided with a more accurate method of tracking their hours worked by using a web-based time clock. With the eTimekeeper feature, hourly employees will be able able to clock in and out at any place or time via a web browser or mobile device. Transportation professionals will also have the ability to monitor key performance indicators to ensure they are running an efficient operation with the District Pulse component coming with the new software.

National Joint Powers Alliance, a national purchasing cooperative, will manage a competitively bid contract to purchase the needed software for NCSS.

With the estimated cost of the project’s installation at $165,121, it will be paid for by SPLOST funds. However, the annual recurring cost for maintenance and support for all software and hardware is $70,626. This would be paid from the general fund budget upon approval of the fiscal year 2016 budget.

Although Tyler Technologies was the software provider of choice and currently provides services to NCSS, it was not the only corporation considered for selection by the BOE.

“In addition to Tyler Technologies, the school system reviewed software packages from both Synovia and ActSoft. All three were extensively evaluated, including free, live trials of each product, ” said Barr. He went on to add, “The other products, after review, had diagnostic and technical issues that were deemed to make them less effective than the product chosen.”