Tim Collins, AISD director of transportation, has started visiting schools to introduce students to the new Zonar system. The system, he said, is “an added safety for our students and a peace of mind for our parents and guardians."
Zonar is a tracking system that registers when students get on and off their school bus. Funded by the 2014 Bond and installed on all AISD buses last spring and summer, the system has been undergoing tests as the transportation department prepares it for implementation. It’s now ready to start rolling out.
The system is being rolled out by school network, with Arlington High School and its elementary and junior high feeder schools going first. Collins’ school visits started with Duff Elementary, Bailey Junior High and Arlington High School in late January and South Davis and Pearcy Elementary and Gunn Junior High in February. Joined by several bus drivers, AISD Transportation Manager Eric Cooper and AISD Transportation Safety Tech Linda Bunch, Collins explained to student bus riders how Zonar works and collected student information to get them registered in the new system.
The students all get a new “Z-Pass” ID card, which has a little chip inside. When they get on or off the bus, they wave the ID card near the Zonar reader at the front. A beep and green light confirms the card was read, and the time, date and location of where the student got on and off the bus is recorded immediately in a secure database, accessible only by the transportation department.
As the transportation department works on the final stages of getting Zonar fully operational, the Arlington High School network students are now trained, have their IDs and are ready to go. The department expects Zonar to be completely implemented next school year.
Further down the road, the AISD transportation department will introduce the parent portal function of Zonar. This will allow parents to check their children’s bus status through an app on their cell phone. Another function of Zonar that is already operational is GPS, allowing the transportation department to know where all buses are at all times.
“It is a huge undertaking,” said Debbie Swenson, regular education router foreman for the AISD transportation department. “Having the ability to locate our buses and students quickly, especially in the event of an emergency, is very important to us. We are very excited about the system and its potential.”