NEISD installing new radio system in buses to communicate emergencies more quickly

New system will save money

By Patty Santos - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Bus drivers for North East Independent School District will have a better way to communicate emergencies back to dispatch this school year.

Crews are just finishing up installing about 340 new digital radio systems on school buses, which will be ready by the beginning of the school year in a week.

Jack De Forrest III, executive director of transportation for the district, said 10 years ago, the old cellular push-to-talk system was all the rage, but it quickly lost its luster when drivers had a difficult time driving and trying to reach dispatch.

“What was well-intended in the beginning became a device a driver had to pull over to legally transmit on,” De Forrest said.

The new systems are like the old push-to-talk radios, but they will allow dispatch to track and record every call and locate it through GPS on the radios.

The system is also expected to save taxpayers money. A total of 354 digital radios were purchased.

“Our former system cost as much as $18,000 a month to operate. It'd be like owning 400 cellphones. That bill would be staggering,” De Forrest said.

The monthly average bill for the new system will be about $12,000 for the first five years, and once the system is paid off, it will cost less than $9,000 a month.

“Any time we make an improvement that can enhance the safety of bus operations for children, that’s not an expense, it’s an investment,” De Forrest said.

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