Harford County (Maryland) Public Schools will more than double the number of mobile video surveillance systems inside its buses, after the Board of Education approved a $179,640 contract recently to purchase systems for 103 buses.
The surveillance systems have already been installed on 95 buses, including those operated by the school system and those operated by independent contractors, Charles Taibi, director of transportation, told board members.
There are 491 buses, both HCPS and contractor-owned, used to transport Harford County students, according to Jillian Lader, the school system’s manager of communications.
The new systems, which will be purchased from Angel Trax of Newton, Ala., will be installed on 103 more buses, all operated by the contractors, according to Taibi.
The board voted 8-0 to approve the contract as part of its consent agenda Monday. Members Joseph Hau and Al Williamson were absent.
School system officials want to put the surveillance systems on all buses, Director of Administration Joseph Licata said.
The systems can capture audio and video recordings of the activity inside the bus and have helped school system officials make significant reductions in the number of student disciplinary issues while on the bus.
The HCPS Citizen Advisory Committee on Safety and Security noted a 61 percent decrease in the amount of disciplinary referrals given to students because of the systems, information committee representatives presented to the school board in late 2015.
The systems remain effective, according to an HCPS transportation official.
“Feedback from bus drivers and administrators is that the presence of the cameras has reduced the number of incidents on buses,” Matt Bedsaul, a supervisor of transportation, said in an emailed statement before Monday’s school board meeting. “With audio and video recordings, it is easier to determine the sequence of events if a situation does occur.”
Bedsaul noted “the footage has proven invaluable in conducting investigations and minimizing students being pulled from instructional time to provide statements as part of an investigation.”
Taibi told board member Robert Frisch, who asked about the surveillance systems during the board meeting, that the new systems will not be installed on the school system’s aging buses.
“We want to get as much bang for our buck, so we’re putting them on the newest buses that we replaced last year,” he said.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman provided $1 million in this year’s capital budget for the school system to purchase new buses to replace the aging vehicles in its fleet.
Taibi said HCPS will purchase 16 new buses this year.
The money to purchase the new surveillance systems comes from an unused portion of the county’s allocation for replacement buses, as the school system kept several buses slated for replacement on the road, according to Licata.
The school system spent “several thousand dollars” to repair those buses, and they were kept running as they had not yet reached the 15-year age limit for a school bus, Licata explained to board members.
“Since they were less than 15 years old, we extended them because we wanted to get our money out of them,” he said.
Glassman is providing $250,000 in the coming fiscal year for replacement school buses, according to the proposed fiscal 2018 capital budget.