At the Oct. 9 Liberty County Board of Education, Interim Chief Operations Officer Jason Rogers presented to the board a new GPS system that the Liberty County School System is considering adopting for all school buses.
The GPS system, called Zonar, is a sole-source GPS and management system for fleet vehicles, Rogers said.
According to Zonar Software’s website, the device features fleet optimization, which allows for vehicle tracking, asset utilization and route optimization; driver productivity, which is in-cab tablets and applications to assist with every aspect of a driver’s job responsibilities; verified pre- and post-trip inspections, promoting accountability and consistency for inspections across the board; and other features like safe and fuel efficient driving, compliance and systems integration.
“It gives us more reliable ridership counts,” Rogers said. “It has the ability if we’d like to, to take the student ID’s and students check in when they get on the bus, and check out when they get off the bus.”
Rogers added that the Zonar system has a very powerful parent app, which allows parents who subscribe to the app to know where the buses are at any point in the time.
“It’s a great tool to enhance parent communication and parent stakeholder involvement,” he said.
There are various safety features in the system, which will send notifications when a bus hard brakes, or any fast acceleration, Rogers said.
“The really, really good thing I think we’ll see is the pre- and post-trip inspections,” Rogers continued. “It will notify us if those drivers aren’t doing those pre-trip inspections, and more importantly, the post-trip inspections. It will greatly increase student safety, and eliminate that element of accidentally having a student left on the bus.
Other great features include the recognition of all school speed zones, and will send an alert if drivers are speeding a certain amount over the limit, Rogers said.
Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry said that this system is going to help make safety less of a concern.
“There are several benefits to this,” Perry said. “We’ll be able to know what’s going on, and I think in the long run, it will help us save money.”
The estimated cost of the Zonar GPS being implemented into LCSS’s entire fleet is $186,325. Rogers said that the district did apply for a grant and received $40,000, which will be put towards the purchase of the systems, he said, making the final estimated cost $146,325. The funding will come from the ESPLOST account, Rogers said.
Upgrades are happening across the board for LCSS, and especially in the classrooms, as Chief Academic Officer Patti Crane presented the current pilot program being tested in some of LCSS’s elementary schools.
LCSS has partnered with Google Expeditions in conjunction with their Z Space partnership, which are the 3D labs in the schools, Crane said. The pilot program includes professional development for 20 elementary educators, she continued.
“As they complete the learning, they can check out 25 phones, selfie sticks, and viewers; three charging docks, and one teaching tablet and router,” Crane said.
The experiences are provided through Google Expeditions, which utilizes both virtual reality and augmented reality, Crane said. The VR tours will let students use mobile devices and the VR viewers to explore art galleries, museums, underwater or even outer space, she said.
“Standards will come alive in the classroom,” Crane said. “We are so excited for this opportunity.”
LCSS has not begun the augmented reality portion of the program yet, but the capability is there and available, Crane said. The AR tours bring virtual objects into the classroom and allow students to walk around the objects as if they were physically there.
This is a preliminary program extended to all elementary school teachers, and was focused towards those who expressed interest, Crane continued. The program addresses social studies and science, and may in the future address other critical areas.
“As we move forward in the pilot, there is some middle and high school content we will be able to look at,” Crane said. “But, for right now, it’s only the 20 elementary school teachers.”