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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Now the largest school bus operator in the state, Albuquerque Public Schools is doubling down on its effort to record what’s going on during the ride to and from school.
The district has approved the purchase of new security camera systems to be installed on 70 of its own buses. The clearance came in part, during am APS Board Finance Committee meeting on Monday afternoon.
But while the nearly $200,000 investment in video and audio recording equipment is significant, it’s also not the first time the district has done it. Since 2015, the district has been quietly using the same security camera systems on 30 of its own buses.
“It is more monitoring, more surveillance, but it is helpful for people,” said Scott Elder, chief operations officer for Albuquerque Public Schools.
Elder says the cameras are about knowing what’s going on and helping address potential issues with students.
“As people become more aware of bullying, or issues that are out there with kids, they like to have some sort of documentation of that event so that they can really see what happened for themselves,” said Elder.
The system they’ll use is made by a company called “Seon.” The 70 additional camera systems will be installed with four camera angles per bus. Those cameras will be pointed at both the driver and students.
At the Finance Committee meeting on Monday, APS Board Member Peggy Muller Aragon commented about the cameras.
“I mean that might keep kids from bullying kids,” said Muller Aragon, in response to student reaction when they know they’re being recorded.
The cameras aren’t APS’ first though. According to Elder, APS already has about 30 buses that are equipped with cameras. The district says those cameras have been in place since roughly July 2015, about the same time that APS jumped back into the bus running business. APS began operating its own buses after its single largest provider, Durham School Services, ended its contract with the district.
“We’re the largest bus contractor in the state of New Mexico,” said Elder. “I believe we have a little over 200 (buses). The next contractor has over 100 (buses).”
According to district’s Student Transportation Services Director Royce Binns, the cameras have helped cut down on problems.
“It does decrease vandalism and discipline on the bus, any bullying,” said Binns.
With the addition, APS says about 100 of its own buses will have security camera systems. Binns told APS Board members Monday that roughly 60 more buses need the camera systems.
According to Binns, the camera footage isn’t monitored daily, saying that a staff of 10 additional people would likely be needed to do so. The footage is instead monitored by request.
“It’s more of a reactionary tool but it is proactive too,” said Binns. “That’s usually a request from the teachers or somebody else.”
The district says it will pick buses to install cameras on based on their level of need.
“If there’s disciplinary issues on certain routes, or instances that are going on,” said Binns, regarding who gets the cameras first.
“After that, it will be the larger busses, the route busses, then it will be special needs buses,” said Binns.
The district hopes it gives parents a little peace of mind, too.
“For parents, I think it adds a level of knowledge,” said Elder.
APS says the money to pay for cameras comes from the fee they charge the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for park and ride services.
The district also says it plans on getting cameras for all of its buses in the future, and encouraging subcontractors to do so, too.
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