Exeter buses to get cameras

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

School district aims to provide better security on bus rides

The Exeter R-6 School District is hoping to provide better security on its five school buses by installing new camera systems.

Ernest Raney, superintendent of Exeter Schools, said the school board has been asking for bus cameras for a couple years, and he is happy to finally be getting them.

"Three years ago, we spent money on radio systems for the buses when we didn't have any radio system at the school," he said. "Technology changes every year, and there was a lot of talk about digital cameras and their abilities, so we've been holding off until the digital cameras were available to us."

Exeter got three bids for installation of the cameras, and the district went with the mid-range option, approving Pro-Vision, of Byron Center, Mich., to install six-camera systems on each bus for a total cost of $13,145.

American Bus Video, of Cumming, Ga., was the cheapest bid, offering a four-camera system for each bus for $10,325, not including installation, which the district would have to do itself.

Also on the table was an offer from Seon, of Coquitlam, BC in Canada. Raney described Seon as the most elaborate of the three companies, offering wireless download features. However, the basic camera package for Seon, four cameras per bus with no wireless download, cost $15,765, and adding the wireless features would nearly double the price.

The Pro-Vision system purchased by the district will feature six cameras per bus, four exterior and two interior, and will allow for two more to be connected to the eight-channel system if the district chooses to do so at a later date.

"We'll be able to ID cars by their license plates if they run the stop," Raney said. "That doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it's good for us to be prepared."

Raney said one school bus came into contact with an 18-wheeler earlier this year, with the collision only damaging the mirrors of the two vehicles. He said such incidents, with this one resulting in a battle of one driver's word against the other's, could be better-handled with cameras on the buses.

"It was one person's word against the other's, and if we have a forward-facing camera, we would be able to show the event and determine what exactly happened," he said. "It's all about safety and helping out our bus drivers every day."

The cameras shoot in high definition and use a hard drive and SD card combination to save video. Raney said the system uses both in case there is an accident in which the hard drive crashes, the SD card will have the most recent video saved.

Sammy Hudson, school board member, raised questions about the affordability of the cameras. She said she supports getting the cameras, but wanted to be sure the district could afford them, fearing legislative actions and possible funding cuts could strain the district financially.

Raney said the district's finances are in good shape with 25 percent reserves, and he assured Hudson the cameras would not cause financial problems and could possibly pay for themselves over time if they can stem some of the vandalism of the bus seats that occurs each year and cost the district money in repairs.

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