School districts have always been concerned with safety of its faculty and students, while maintaining cost-effective strategies and policies. Because of this, more and more school districts are wondering if purchasing and installing GPS devices on all of their school buses is a worthwhile investment.
One of the primary functions these GPS devices provide is an overall increase in the safety of the passengers, especially children. Parents want to know that their children are in the hands of capable, professional, and compassionate bus drivers who will look after them for the time they are in-transit. That is why if there is ever an emergency, these devices will help to improve the response times for emergency or medical personnel to easily locate the bus. Likewise, parents can have the option to receive notifications from the system telling them when the bus arrives to both the bus-stop as well as the school. This can provide them with comfort that their children are safe at all times.
In addition to increase safety, the GPS software will help school districts save a lot of money and time. For example, the devices will provide the shortest route for buses to arrive at their destinations, much like mobile transportation apps do (e.g. Google Maps). In addition to prompt arrival, GPS devices can help lower total bus mileage over time and reduce the amount of fuel consumption spent on maintaining these vehicles. Likewise, the ability to easily find these buses will allow managers to monitor their bus drivers and make sure they are following their proscribed routes.
The State Education Department announced in June 2015 that the installation of GPS devices on buses is eligible for Transportation Aid reimbursement. The State made these reimbursement eligible because the investment in GPS software can help cut costs to the schools and the state, while also increasing overall efficiency in the schools’ bus management and operations. It essentially works as a reward system for implementing GPS use in buses, which is something else for school districts to consider.
While the idea of implementing these devices appears worthwhile, there is one main consequence that is often overlooked – privacy. One main concern is that employees may feel that their privacy is being invaded or that their employers do not trust them as much. As a result, employees may question if they are genuinely valued at the district and may even consider leaving. Although this isn’t certain, it could potentially have a negative impact on the district’s culture, if employees feel their every move is being watched.
Ultimately, the decision to move to GPS software comes down to two questions; How safe do we want to make our school district? How far can we go with this before it invades privacy? If benefits outweigh the costs, it may be an investment to consider. Time will tell if these devices significantly help or hurt school districts.
Shari Diamond, CIA
Shari has been with Cerini & Associates, LLP since 2008 where she works primarily with the firm’s school district clients providing internal audit and claims audit services. She has over twenty years’ experience performing internal audits, risk assessments, and compliance reviews, as well as recommending processes to strengthen the internal controls environment while increasing efficiencies. Her prior experience at PWC and Northrop Grumman included performing Information Technology audits.