School bus operators in Lawrence are making sure no child gets left behind — while also keeping intruders out.
First Student installed the Child Check Mate system about seven years ago, but now the agency is enhancing its capabilities with the Theft Mate system.
“Basically, (Child Check Mate) is a system that requires the driver to go to the back of the bus,” said Wayne Zachary, a First Student contract manager. “The idea is because they’re forced to go back there, they’ll look for children or left articles or anything left on the bus.”
The system upgrade to Theft Mate adds motion sensors and voice commands.
Here’s how it works: After the Child Check Mate system is deactivated, the Theft Mate uses its motion sensors to check for movement. If something moves within the first 30 minutes after the system is off, it assumes the person on the bus is a child and tells the child to remain seated while help is called.
After those first 30 minutes, the system turns to intruder mode. The voice command tells the person in the bus that authorities have been contacted. The bus lights and horn also activate.
“Lots are fenced and gated,” Zachary said. “We’re not in that situation here, so it’ll be helpful in that respect. We think we’ve possibly had some homeless individuals on super cold nights find their way in here. It’s not been a major problem.”
The addition of the security system is an initiative of First Student nationally. School districts pay nothing for the upgrade.
“This is an excellent security tool for our transportation system,” said Rick Gammill, the special operations, safety and transportation director for Lawrence public schools. “The fact that they are providing it as part of our agreement is wonderful for the district.”
Zachary says that about 20 students have been left unattended on buses nationally, but it has never happened in Lawrence.
“We did have a bus get back to the lot with a child one time several years ago, but the system worked,” he said. “The driver went back to deactivate the Child Check Mate system and discovered the child was asleep.”
Zachary estimates the upgrade costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per bus.