Parents in Gretna are sending their children off to the bus stop with a new school supply in hand, a magnetic pass to get on the bus in an effort to beef up security.
Leave it to the district claiming to have the state's very first school buses in 1909 to be the first to bring the latest in bus technology to Nebraska at a cost of $50,000. “We're a school district of 70 square miles so we have a lot of cornfields that we pass in the country,” says Gretna Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Riley.
The solution to keeping tabs on students across all those miles was installing scanners on every bus, logging where and when each student gets on and off. Some kids have an hour-long ride to get to and from school. "I think it's a good idea because then you know if they're not riding,” says Gretna Elementary fifth-grader Katie Kersten.
"Sometimes a 5-year-old will just get off a bus for no reason,” says Riley. Administrative computers can pinpoint exactly where that student scanned themselves off. “It's gone really well,” adds Riley. “We thought we might have a few lost passes, especially with the little ones."
The district has its means of making sure these cards stay in the hands of the 2,000 students who use them. “It costs $10 to replace it and my parents don't really want to replace it,” says Kersten. And what student wants to spend their allowance to buy back a pass just to get on the bus?
Riley says other administrators have been calling to see if the system is worthwhile. His answer? Absolutely, though he says that while it's the right fit for Gretna, other districts might have security measures more to fit their own needs.