Cameras and GPS tracking devices now monitor more than 70 buses that serve Blount County Schools.
The upgrades are meant to improve both bus rider behavior and safety.
"When there was an incident in the past, principals had to interview kids to see what happened," Blount County Schools transportation director Kevin Wilner said. "This way, when an incident does occur, it's easy for them to get to the bottom of it."
The cameras record both audio and video. They not only help resolve issues that happen on the bus, but also help prevent issues from arising in the first place.
"The kids see the camera, so they're not going to do some of the things they might have done before," Wilner said.
Ideally, improved passenger behavior leads to safer driving.
"It's good for the drivers. It gives them a more secure feeling knowing the kids are not acting up as much. It's also a reminder for them to focus on their primary duty which is operating the bus safely," Wilner said.
The camera installation process started after Thanksgiving and finished this week. Wilner says that even in that short amount of time the cameras have already helped resolve around five issues with students on a bus.
Before the school year, the county also installed GPS tracking devices on its buses.
"That's been a godsend. Now we know where our buses are and we know what's happening on them with the cameras, so probably the two most important things that you need to know we can now do," Wilner said.
The GPS technology can be tracked on an app, but for to make that available to parents would require additional software.
Installing the cameras cost about $1,100 per bus. In total the cameras cost the school system around $81,000.
The county uses 73 full size buses. Of those 71 have had cameras install and 72 have a GPS. Wilner says the remaining buses will be outfitted soon.
The county uses an additional 27 buses for special education. Those buses have not been equipped with cameras or a GPS, but Wilner says the money to put the devices on those buses has been requested in the upcoming budget. If approved, the buses will likely by upgraded over the summer.