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JEROME — You can track your pizza, you can track your Uber. But can you track your kid?

A shortage of school bus drivers at North Side Bus Co. has led to drivers taking on two routes at once and delayed buses. That’s caused confusion and frustration among parents who are left wondering when their child will arrive home.

A new program aims to allow Jerome parents to have easy access to more information.

Last week, the Jerome School District started using a program called Z Pass, developed by Zonar Systems. It allows about 1,300 elementary schoolers who ride a school bus to use an electronic card to check on and off the bus.

The new program will give more information to parents — at least enough to know whether their child made it on or off a school bus.

“So far, we’ve had a very positive response from parents,” Superintendent Dale Layne said.

The program doesn’t track children all the time, only when they get on or off a school bus.

“It’s not going to track the kid wherever they go,” Layne said.

School officials can see the time students get on and off a school bus. And next week, the Jerome district plans to distribute information to parents about how they can use an phone application or receive email or text alerts to check on their student’s whereabouts.

If a parent leaves for work before their child gets on a school bus, for example, they’ll be able to use the app to ensure their child made it to school. Or they can monitor if school buses are running late.

But it doesn’t prevent a child from getting on the wrong school bus or getting off at the wrong stop.

School districts occasionally run into situations where a child doesn’t arrive at home and a parent calls the police department.

In January 2015, a Jerome 6-year-old who fell asleep on a school bus was left alone for about two hours before a firefighter found her roaming the streets.

This summer, the school district started a parent committee to get feedback and surveyed elementary school parents. Layne also talked with a school district in Wyoming that uses the program.

For the first year, the Jerome district is paying about $20,000 for the program and is using state safety money.

The purchase includes electronic card readers for school buses, key cards for students and a monthly cost for the use of cellular data. In future years, it will cost about $4,000 annually.

It’s optional for families to sign up, Layne said. But so far, only one parent has opted out their child.


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