Leander, Texas (KXAN) — Technicians are installing GPS systems in Leander Independent School District buses this week, in an effort to get the systems running in all operational buses by the first week of school.
“We recognize that we want to give parents the best data that we can give them, even an extension into the school bus,” said Leander Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Bret Champion. “The school bus is really the first class of a student’s day. So, we believe that and we want to make sure that kids are well taken care of from the time we pick them up to the time we get them home.”
Dr. Champion said in an interview with KXAN News Today that GPS on each school bus will let parents get real-time data about the location of their child’s bus. The district contracted with the company Zonar for the GPS technology. It plans to try a mobile app by the company that lets parents use “specific credentials” to track their child’s bus.
“For safety and security [the GPS system] is a great enhancement for us,” said Dr. Champion. “We’ll know immediately where each bus in our fleet is. We’ve got 161 routes that are running.”
Leander ISD Assistant Superintendent Veronica Sopher says the decision to install the equipment was not based on any one event. The district believes it will help make its system more efficient, improve communication with parents, and increase safety.
District officials say the GPS installation and first year of service costs $160,000. Each year after that will cost about $53,000.
The technology also has implications for safety. Last year, Leander ISD fired a bus driver after she was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Investigators believe bus driver Kathy Legrand, 61, hit a mailbox and tree limbs and drove up to 30 students while intoxicated last October. Emails obtained by KXAN News between district officials and law enforcement indicate Legrand did not return cell phone and radio calls after parents raised concerns.
“I was notified by Jim Rose, Principal at River Ridge Elementary, that several parents informed the school of a bus driving erratically on Quinlan Park Road. Mr. Rose requested I help the other bus drivers locate this bus,” wrote a Travis County Constable in an email.
A district investigation found no evidence that Legrand ever reported to the district that she was taking medications, despite telling deputies she takes up to nine medications daily, according to the district’s assistant superintendent and court records.
Arrest records state that 61-year-old Kathy Loraine Legrand admitted she took pain killers and anti-depressants. She also had beer and medication the day before she was arrested. A grand jury has not formally charged Legrand with DWI. Her next court date is September 30. KXAN News reached out to Legrand’s last listed attorney Monday, but did not immediately hear back.