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New bus ID program aims to keep Searcy students safe

Introducing "Smart Tag", the ID program designed to help students get on and off the right stop, as well as find the correct bus.

SEARCY, Ark. — The new school year is almost here, which means that thousands of Arkansas students are preparing for another year of riding the school bus.

Despite the bus's daily routine, sometimes mix-ups occur that create panic for everyone involved.

This year, Searcy School District implemented a program that will help keep track of the more than 1,200 bus riders.

The ID program is called "Smart Tag", and it's designed to make sure that students get on and off the right stop, as well as the right bus. 

Tallie Reynolds has been a bus driver for the Searcy School District for a year.

"We're the first and the last people they see every day, so it's really important for us to interact with them," Reynolds said.

With dozens of students on board each day, sometimes things can get hectic.

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"We have had a couple of incidents where they want to go with their friends and they'll get off and mom and dad are at their stop and they [the student] didn't get off the bus and they [the parent] know they got on the bus," Reynolds said.

To lessen any confusion, students will have to scan an ID badge as they enter the bus starting this school year.

Each one of the district's more than 30 drivers will have a tablet on board with route information and the addresses of the students on board.

David Dale,  the district's transportation director, said that the idea for "Smart Tag" came after he noticed several mix-ups happening when he was hired.

"It will let the driver know, hey, this isn't your bus, but it will also tell them what bus they do need to get on and they'll be able to show them and point them in the right direction," Dale said.

Assistant Superintendent Dean Stanley said that the program won't just help the drivers.

"It gives our parents an extra layer of protection for their kids," Stanley explained.

He added that the program will aid the school in preventing the unthinkable from happening— losing a student.

"Thinking that you might have lost a child somewhere, it doesn't get much worse than that, so, you know, we frantically would have to try to backtrack and figure out where that child was," Stanley said.

The "Smart Tag" program will cost the district nearly $53,000 for the first year and about $20,000 after that annually.

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