Buses at Madison Consolidated School will soon be equipped with a card reader and GPS system, allowing schools to track buses and students as they travel to and from school.

The school board approved a $41,468 contract with SEON - a mobile video surveillance and fleet management company - to install the GPS software and student tracking systems.

The software includes a map-based view of every bus in the fleet, live vehicle status that includes speed, direction and if the bus is idling or stopped and reports to identify fuel saving options.

Mike Frazier, director of operations for MCS, said when the system is ready to go - hopefully by the end of this school year - students will be issued key cards to swipe when they enter and exit the bus, allowing the school and parents to see when or if a student got on the bus. 

"It's really for the kids safety," Frazier said. "It's also better for the school corporations, because we'll be able to track the buses."

"If there's an accident, we'll know exactly how many students are on that bus," he added.

Madison has been researching companies that can install this kind of GPS software since January. 

Frazier said SEON is compatible with school bus routing software purchased earlier in the year, and that the system automatically updates itself nightly to account for new students that transfer into the school system mid-year.

Superintendent Ginger Studebaker-Bolinger said many bus drivers know the students that ride their bus daily, but being able to digitally track students is a safety measure that the school should take.

"It does provide us with real-time knowledge of where students are located, and we've never had that before," Bolinger said. 

The board unanimously approved the contract. Bolinger said funding for the contract came from money saved from refinancing Lydia Middleton Elementary School.

Lisa Cutshall, director of eLearning, released poll information regarding the school's first eLearning day, held last month. Cutshall said more than 600 parents, teachers and students took the poll. The results were positive overall, she said.

When asked if they would want to participate in a future eLearning day, 81 percent of students, 71 percent of parents and 88 percent of teachers responded "Yes." 

Cutshall said the response she heard was largely positive. One issue she heard was that some junior high school parents and students commented that the quantity of work assigned that day was more than students were used to.

She also commented that several parents were convinced of the practical uses for future eLearning days when it was suggested they could potentially be used during snow days.

Also at the meeting:

• The school board approved the second reading of the proposed $31 million budged for the 2014 school year. The proposed budget includes $19.7 million for the general fund, $3.6 million for debt services, $4.1 million for a capital projects fund and $1.8 million in transportation.

The proposed budget will now be sent to the state.

• Imaging Office Systems Inc., which had perviously been contracted to digitize the schools' old records, notified the school additional fees would need to be added to their contract.

The company found 56 rolls of microfilm and 29 rolls of microfiche containing heal records and grade information. Scanning those rolls is an additional service. The school has a legal mandate, Bolinger said, to maintain some of that information permanently. Services could range up to an additional $13,000, depending on how full each roll is. 

Bolinger said digitizing those records will make them much more secure than they have been sitting in the basement of the school district's administration building. 

• The school board also heard the first reading of a new convicted sex offender policy. Under the policy, no convicted sex offender is allowed on any school grounds, facilities, buses or other school vehicles. They are also prohibited from any school events.

Violations to the policy may result in prosecution for the crime of criminal trespassing. Limited circumstances are included in the provision. Those circumstances include when a registered sex offender has a "right or legitimate educational need to come upon school property."

In those instances, the sex offender must contact the building principal to establish a written individual access and child protection plan that has to be approved by the school safety specialist, superintendent and building principal.

• Frazier announced that the newly renovated pool at Madison Junior High School had been losing water, but that contractors had been contacted and fixed the leak. The pool will be open to the community on Oct. 26. Tours and lunch will be offered to community members wishing to see the facility.