As part of a continual process to modernize the bus fleet and keep students safe, McAllen ISD’s school buses are getting an upgrade.

About one-third of buses are now equipped with new video cameras, replacing obsolete units. They can transmit wirelessly and record from more angles than the older models.

“With this new system, we’re able to collect that information wirelessly and the bus can get right back on route,” McAllen ISD Transportation Director Jacob Martinez explained. “This will also aid in driver training. It’s all about keeping kids safe.”

The main advantages to the new video system include:

• Four camera angles instead of two

• Easier access to video through a wireless component

• Storage of video is easier

• Diagnostics provide early warning if camera malfunctions

Currently, 32 buses are outfitted and 36 more will have the new cameras by the middle of spring. That will cover all 68 buses that currently have a route including those for special needs students. Several older buses, not used on routes, will not receive the new cameras since they will eventually be phased out and replaced.

From the transportation parking lot, a bus can transmit its video wirelessly through an antenna fixed to the top of the transportation building. From an office monitor, staff can view all four angles simultaneously on a split-screen. Videos are also easy to save and keep for future trainings.

“It’s a server-based system that allows us to store these video files for an indefinite amount of time,” Martinez said.

The early-warning feature is also a plus. In the past, a problem may not have been discovered until someone removed the hard drive to examine the video. Now, problems can be corrected before that happens.

“We are notified of those problems instantly so we can immediately address those situations,” Martinez said.

McAllen ISD transports about 7,500 students to and from school each day. Many more are transported for athletic events, UIL and field trips during the school year. It adds up to about 950,000 miles per year.