MIDLOTHIAN — As the new school year revs up with students buzzing about campuses, Midlothian ISD is adding to its safety measures with a new “SMART Tag” technology.

By utilizing the SMART Tag, which is an acronym for Secured Mobility Authorized Ridership Technology, Midlothian ISD is now one of nine districts across Texas to integrate the technology into its school system.

“We have new badges that students can get their lunch, check out library books as you would experience in a college setup,” said Karen Permetti, Midlothian ISD Chief Communications Officer, about the school’s new SMART Tags. “So this same badge you can use to swipe on and off for the bus.”

Developed by Secured Mobility, LLC, a privately held technology company located in Georgetown, the SMART Tag system is designed to ensure authorized ridership for students who utilize the school bus.

“We have a safety and security committee, and they wanted to see if there was a way we could enhance bus safety. And then we also had our district transportation team looking at a way to improve systems and collect information regarding transportation,” Permetti explained. “With these two ideas in mind, they explored what systems could be used and found the ‘SMART Tag’ system because it bridged both needs,” she added.

According to Secured Mobility’s website, the full-featured operation utilizes Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and cloud-connected tablet computers in each school bus to provide accurate, real-time information to increase safety and security of students and faculty.

“We already have bus safety protocols but this system enriches it, and it also gives us data that we need,” Permetti expressed. “From the district systems perspective, before a bus driver leaves for the day, they do a pre-bus check."

“Well, the tablet has the system on it, and does a checklist they can go through and lets the transportation department know they did their pre-check and post-check," she expounded. "It also allows them to track the routes and make data-driven decisions."

In addition to the data intake, the technology company also mentions that the SMART Tags contain report functions for transportation personnel such as special education reimbursement, state headcount, and mileage reports.

Through individualized student profiles that also includes photo identification, the program is capable of systematizing pre and post-trip inspections, seating charts, and discipline reports.

“The student gets on the bus, swipes on, and it lets the bus driver know they’re on the right bus,” Permetti explained. “Or if they [the student] exit, it lets the driver know they’re getting off at the right stop.”

Parents can also rest assured that through the “SMART Parent Web Portal,” guardians can receive text messages or emails of when their child has arrived at their bus stop, and when a student has been added or removed by an authorized adult.

“The system allows for a two-minute email notification to parents,” Permetti confirmed. ”So two minutes before getting to the bus stop, a parent can be emailed, and it’ll say that the bus is making its way.”

“From the security aspect of things, if a bus breaks down, it sends a notification for us to come and retrieve them," Permetti related. "If something happens like a wreck, we will know and can automatically pull from our Transportation Center, log into the system, and see all the kids that are still on that bus and contact all the parents that their kids are okay."

Though the SMART Tag’s tablet requires internet connection to send or receive data, the student’s information is still recorded, loaded, and sent back to the transportation department once the internet connection is re-established.

“It saves time on incidences that we need to immediately communicate to parents,” Permetti added.

Costing the district $100,000 for the safety update, bus drivers are currently training for the fall semester approaching, adapting to the new tool.

To connect with Midlothian ISD, visit misd.gs/Midlothian or call (972)-775-8296.

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Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer

(469)-517-1450