New safety upgrades on our buses

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- It may not be Labor Day, but summer is officially over for students. Most Tri-Cities kids go back to school tomorrow. And the districts have been working down to the wire to improve safety on school buses.

If you want a time capsule of antiquated technology, look no further than dozens of school buses in Richland. Security cameras still run on tape. Not only is it bulky, but it's far from reliable. It was time for an upgrade.

"We are working to replace our outdated video systems with the new DVD technology, we're about halfway through the process," said Richland Director of Transportation, Dave Conrad.

Buses will have three cameras instead of two. Offering a variety of angles. And a tapeless recording to refer back to.

"You get better resolution, you get better service. The capabilities, you have quite a few capabilities with the new camera systems," said Conrad.

On top of the cameras, Richland plans to purchase a live tracking GPS. It will show the location of every bus in real time. And kids will scan an ID card as they get on and off the bus.

"When we get calls from parents wanting to know where their child's at, we can look at that in real time and say your child is on this bus, he's at this location, and they're due to be dropped off at whatever time the schedule is," said Conrad.

Kennewick Schools updated about a quarter of its buses with a similar system. It is working towards updating the whole fleet.

With the new live tracking GPS system, monitors inside will be able to see every move these buses make. From the speed they're going, to the location it's at, and just how long the bus sat at a stop.

Kennewick says it will be efficient, but even more importantly, it will be safe.

"It's our number one priority, safe transportation of students, we always strive to get them here on time safely and get them home on time safely," said Kennewick Transportation Manager, Ethan Schwebke.

Pasco added similar GPS trackers to all of its buses at the beginning of the last school year.

Richland is in need of qualified bus drivers as well as para-educators to ride with students with special needs. To apply, there's a link on under newslinks.