Bus 'Z pass' starts this month

Aug 10, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

The new school bus "Z Pass" will be an optional feature for Riverton students this year, but Riverton school officials are hoping parents will "buy-in" to help ensure children get to and from school safely.

Students who use the cards will "swipe" when they get on and off the bus.

"We really want the parents to use this. It will really cut down on the calls we get to the office," School District 25 superintendent Terry Snyder said.

He said there's no greater fear than the district getting reports of a lost student.

"You go into a cold sweat and a panic," he said. "Boy, it's scary, and things can happen so, so quickly."

The card also will help parents stay informed in case of a traffic accident involving a school bus. Real-time data will show exactly which students are in the vehicle.

Each driver will have a master key that can be used for students who have lost or forgotten the Z Pass. The cards will contain information about each child's designated route, alerting bus drivers if a student gets on the wrong bus or tries to leave at the wrong stop.

Data about where and when a student gets off a bus also can be sent to parents and authorized guardians via text messages or push notifications.

Parents can track a bus's location as well. Several districts in Wyoming have installed similar equipment.

Larry Hartwell, District 25 facilities and transportation supervisor, said he's talked to peers from some of those districts and expects the new system will come with growing pains at the beginning of the school year.

"For the first little bit, it's going to be chaos," he said.

As part of the new bus plan, the school district also is cutting the number of regular bus routes from 21 down to 17 this year. That will save $7,200 each month on fuel costs alone.

Snyder said the district usually aims to have all bus routes be shorter than one hour. Three routes are scheduled to be a few minutes longer than that this year, but the actual driving time will probably be less because buses typically don't stop at all routes.

The district has also installed Zonar software in its buses that bus drivers will use to use to do inspections of their buses before and after their routes. If there seems to be any damage, the drivers can use their tablets to put in a work order to the district's mechanic.