School bus tracking to go live this fall

By Jason Hawk -

A cutting-edge GPS system will soon track Amherst school buses at all times, allowing police and district personnel to respond faster to emergencies.

Transponders will be activated later this fall in the school district’s fleet, said transportation supervisor Cathy Gale.

The tech will be helpful in situations ranging from breakdowns to crashes to onboard fights, she said: “Not that we’re being Big Brother on the buses, but if something goes wrong we’ll be able to know immediately.”

The system includes a panic button that will alert Amherst police dispatchers and show officers precisely where to respond.

Dispatchers have long monitored all Amherst Schools bus radio traffic. Gale said the new tech will simply boost the PD’s ability to keep tabs on the vehicles.

Schools superintendent Steven Sayers said the bus tracking system is the first of its kind in Lorain County and other district heads have expressed interest in following suit.

The Oberlin City Schools have also installed a system that, via a phone app, allows parents to see whether buses are running on time. But it does not appear to be geared toward security and monitoring in the same way.

The Amherst Schools purchased three new buses for this fall, helping to replace aging models.

Over the summer, mechanics at the Washington Street garage replaced an entire bus engine and transmission to extend the lifespan of another vehicle. “They’re really doing a lot to keep our fleet up,” said buildings and grounds supervisor Chuck Grimmett.

School board president Teresa Gilles praised the work of the district’s mechanics. She said the bus bodies look fantastic, but the real issues are usually under the hood where they’re not easily seen — and bus garage staff put tremendous amount into that maintenance.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk