A Pass To SMART Tags

SMART Tag uses an advanced system, but isn't needed for a high school.

SMART Tag uses an advanced system, but isn't needed for a high school.

A new program for bus riders was rolled out last week by the school administration in an attempt to streamline transportation before and after school. SMART Tag stands for Secured Mobility Authorized Ridership Technology, and is a system from a third-party company that gives a badge to each McNeil student in order to ride the school buses every day. The system then allows bus drivers, school administrators, and transportation operators to instantaneously catalog which students are riding the bus, and provides a way for parents to track the progress of their child’s way to and from school.

However, SMART Tag is far from necessary for our high school campus, as it wastes the school’s resources, makes it harder for students to take the buses and adds difficulty to the transportation system day to day. 

Implementing this program for high school students was a waste of the school’s focus and resources. The SMART Tag system includes GPS tracking of buses in real time and monitoring of the number of students on any given bus, including detailed profiles of each rider. The website also boasts text messages to notify parents when buses arrive at their stops. All of this is supposedly for the safety of the students. But it seems highly unlikely that a parent of a high school student would care everyday if their child is 10 minutes away from their stop, and the amount of information easily accessible seems far above what is necessary, especially for a teenager riding a school bus. In fact, the promotional video for the program showcases the usefulness of SMART Tag to a kindergarten student and his parents. The functions of SMART Tag may be good for elementary kids and their parents, but are an overuse of technology for students who should be more than capable of finding their way home.

The SMART Tag program makes too much hassle for our students for what little help it provides. Students will have to present their card both getting on and off, to and from school. The card is now another thing we have to keep track of, and though there is a little bit of leeway for those who don’t have their card, it can eventually lead to students losing their privileges. Furthermore, students with special instances such as multiple addresses or who need to ride home with a friend are going to have a lot more difficulty making the arrangements they need with the new system. With every student being cataloged and monitored closely by SMART, small changes will soon become long processes, and complications will be added for kids just needing a ride home.

According to SMART Tag’s website, the system was based around the experience of a school bus driver. However, drivers and operators are stuck with more work and more things to keep track of. Drivers have to constantly make sure that every student has their card, and those that don’t will have to manually be logged in through the system. Now, the buses do have scanners that make card reading easier, and SMART Tag has recommended ways for helping out students without cards, but this is all to counter a myriad of problems that are sure to arise while this is in place. 

SMART Tag is a district-wide program, and McNeil is the second to last campus in RRISD to use it. It’s easy to see the district’s thinking to just have all grades use SMART. But the fact is that the program and its features are overblown for the young adults in high school. The real time tracking, detailed profiles, and systematic monitoring are benefits that will rarely be reaped at this age, and just cause complications for everyone involved. We would be better off if we just left the tablets and scanners on the buses alone, and continued to ride buses freely. We are perfectly capable of getting on and off a bus.