In a bid to set parents’ nerves at ease, a southwest suburban school district has become one of the first in the state to begin using GPS to track schoolchildren riding buses to and from school each day.
Palos Heights School District 128 had previously been using ZPass, a GPS technology provided by Seattle-based Zonar Systems, to track the buses. But now the district is outfitting students’ backpacks with a luggage tag-sized unit that logs when the student steps on and off the bus.
“A little piece of mind helps you get through the day,” says Ann O’Brien, a mother of four children in Palos Heights School District 128. “They can locate kid and bus in seconds.”
O’Brien says as she watched her children board and exit school busses today, with the new ZPass cards attached to their backpacks.
Palos School Superintendent Kathleen Casey says the system helps alleviate parents’ concerns.
“We can track the bus with the GPS, alleviate a parent’s fear if they got on or off bus, look up their ID number and find out what bus and what time boarded or if still on or exited,” she said.
The district spent $16,000 for the technology, which currently covers 10 buses. Parents say the cost is minimal for the benefits.
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The federal government has posted signs along a major interstate highway in Arizona, more than 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, warning travelers the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers, and a local sheriff says Mexican drug cartels now control some parts of the state.
The signs were posted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) along a 60-mile stretch of Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Gila Bend, a major east-west corridor linking Tucson and Phoenix with San Diego.
They warn travelers that they are entering an “active drug and human smuggling area” and they may encounter “armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at high rates of speed.” Beginning less than 50 miles south of Phoenix, the signs encourage travelers to “use public lands north of Interstate 8” and to call 911 if they “see suspicious activity.”
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, whose county lies at the center of major drug and alien smuggling routes to Phoenix and cities east and west, attests to the violence. He said his deputies are outmanned and outgunned by drug traffickers in the rough-hewn desert stretches of his own county.
“Mexican drug cartels literally do control parts of Arizona,” he said. “They literally have scouts on the high points in the mountains and in the hills and they literally control movement. They have radios, they have optics, they have night-vision goggles as good as anything law enforcement has.
“This is going on here in Arizona,” he said. “This is 70 to 80 miles from the border – 30 miles from the fifth-largest city in the United States.”
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