County School Buses Set For Camera Upgrade

NEWARK – With school safety as pertinent an issue recently
as it has ever been, school board members this week signed off on a proposal to
purchase greatly enhanced digital surveillance camera systems for all of the
school buses in the county’s fleet.

The Board of Education on Tuesday approved a bid to
provide digital surveillance cameras and associated equipment on public school
buses throughout the county. Security cameras were first placed on county
school buses back in 1998 but the changing times and improved technology has
necessitated upgrading the outdated equipment.

“We’ve had cameras on the buses for years, but they use
outdated VCR-type technology and include only one camera on each bus,” said
Steve Price, Supervisor of Maintenance and Transportation for Worcester County
Public Schools. “This is certainly a big upgrade.”

Bid proposals for the upgrade were submitted to 14
companies and four bids were submitted. The winning bid, submitted by Fair’s,
was also the lowest bid, although Price said it was also the most
comprehensive. Fair’s bid included a unit price of $2,636.48, which was almost
$400 less than the next closest bidder. The highest bid came in at around
$4,500 per unit.

Currently, each county school bus is equipped with one
surveillance camera, but the bid from Fair’s will include as many as three
cameras on each bus.

“Even though this is the lowest bid, it’s still the best
system by far,” said Price. “We were hoping to upgrade to two cameras per bus,
but their offer includes three on every bus.”

Not only will the number of cameras on each bus be
increased, but the cameras themselves represent a big upgrade in security. The
cameras will be digital and include sound. They will also record in a
continuous loop providing more hours of recording.

“One of the advantages is that this system will include 70
hours of recording time compared to the nine hours we have with the old VCR
system,” said Price.

The digital format will allow drivers to easily mark the
date and time of an incident on the bus and eliminate the need to review hours
of tape to pinpoint a specific incident.

“The driver will have a panic button where he or she can
mark the date and specific time of an incident,” he said. “It will put a date
and time right on the digital recording that can quickly be pulled up.”

The cost of the new camera system was included in the
fiscal year 2008 budget submitted recently to the County Commissioners.

“We hope to do all of the buses in the fleet as funds
become available,” said Price.