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SPECIAL REPORT


High-definition video cameras line the perimeter of this Fremont Unified School District bus in California to record student behavior.


How Districts Make the Best Choices When Purchasing Video Systems


Written by Mark Rowh I


t’s been said that the only constant is change, and that’s certainly true with school bus-based video cameras. As these systems become more common- place, so does the need to keep pace with advancing


technology. “Video systems, just like all current technol- ogy, are constantly evolving and improving,” said Arby Creach, director of transportation services for the School District of Osceola County in Kissimmee, Florida, which transports 72,000 students a day with a fleet of 400 buses. “Video camera systems acquired only a few years ago be- come obsolete in a few short years. As our buses age out, so do the video systems that were originally installed.” Whether the task is replacing old equipment or install- ing cameras for the first time, a fundamental question arises. How can the best choice be made? At northern California’s Fremont Unified School District,


with 35,000 students and a fleet of 84 buses, past experi- ence has been the guiding force in camera selection. “After many years of utilizing different video systems in our school buses, we’ve been able to figure out what worked well and what did not work well,” said Director of Transportation Charlie Ott. The goal became implementing a reliable system that


without fail produced high-quality video, when needed. This included the capacity to show the areas between seats, below seat level, and to zoom in on a student with- out image pixelation. “We did our research by trial and error, comparing what we currently use, what we have used in the past, and through demonstrations of new modern technology,” Ott shared. For transportation staff at Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which operates 60


20 School Transportation News • APRIL 2020


buses, the need for new equipment became obvious, as aging hard drives failed and users coped with poor video quality. At one point, buses in the 11,700-student district were equipped with three different camera systems, one of which was from a company that no longer existed. Support for all three systems was lacking, according to David A. Hartzell Jr., the district’s transportation director. “We compared resolutions from three or four current


vendors with our current camera capabilities and real- ized our quality at the time was far below what vendors were offering,” he explained. He and his staff selected a new system, but only after speaking with vendor reps at trade shows and inviting vendors for in-district product demonstrations. They also reached out to colleagues with experience in using video camera systems. For the 280 buses operated by Spring Independent School District in Houston, taking advantage of newly improved tech has been the focus, noted Jack Mann, director of transportation for the 25,000-student district. He’s sang the praises about the solutions offered by the most recently available equipment. “These high-definition cameras provide clarity, even


when you are zooming in,” he added. “That’s a big improvement over older systems.” Selection of equipment at Spring ISD has been a group


effort. Mann consulted with others, including technical staff as well as administrators who view the footage. “It’s been a team effort,” he shared. While similar steps have been taken at nearby Klein


Independent School District, Director of Transportation Josh Rice distills the matter to a few simple ingredients.


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