Next semester, the Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD) plans to implement a new system called Z Pass onto district school buses, funded by a grant from Zonar, a GPS tracking company. The usage of this system will require a bus pass separate from regular student IDs, and some students will be charged for these passes.
Students who receive free or reduced lunch will be eligible for free bus passes; however, students who do not qualify will be charged $100 a semester for a bus pass. If a family under full-priced lunch has more than three children taking buses after school, the cost for passes will top off at $300.
“Students paying to ride the school buses has been a board policy for many years, but it hasn’t been enforced,” Nico Richardson, director of Transportation Services for the AUSD, said. “[Bus passes] will now go with applying for lunch passes; both are covered with just one application.”
Lunch applications do not need to be resubmitted in order to obtain a bus pass. In addition, Matthew Dultz, assistant principal of Business and Activities, explains how these bus passes may be distributed based on his previous experience at Mark Keppel High School.
“What may happen, like what they do at Keppel, is that you pay for the bus pass at school, so you don’t have to walk all the way to the district office,” Dultz said. “For those that should be paying, it comes out to about $20 dollars for the whole month, which is 50 cents a ride.”
The district-wide implementation of Z Pass reflects the concern for student safety, as the bus passes will serve as ID cards to scan and identify students as they board the bus.
“That way, I can check and see what bus [a student] is on and whether they got off or not to make sure no one gets left behind,” Richardson said. “We will be able to keep track of the number of students who board the bus and to locate students if necessary. [We can also] track buses with GPS and see how fast they’re [driving].”
The Z Pass system also comes in response to the passage of Senate Bill 1072 by the Calif. state legislature, mandating that all school buses be equipped with an alarm that sounds when the engine is turned off. The bus driver would then have to walk to the back of the bus and scan all the seats before disabling the alarm. The bill now awaits approval by Gov. Jerry Brown.