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East Grand Forks Public Schools to get bus video cameras

An East Grand Forks Public Schools bus drives down 14th Street Northwest after school. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 2
East Grand Forks Senior High students jump on board a school bus after classes let out for the day on Jan. 27. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald) 2 / 2

The East Grand Forks Public Schools Board has approved installing video monitoring systems in three of the district's 10 school buses. The district expects to add video systems to the remaining buses by the end of the spring.

Superintendent Mike Kolness said the decision was not prompted by any particular incident on the buses, but that most districts equip their buses with security cameras.

"We're ... looking for a better system for our transportation monitoring, and we want to try this to see how it works," he said. "It's a good thing for the kids, it's a good thing for the drivers and it's a good thing for our district."

The three cameras will cost the district $6,174.

"I think once we get them in there and the drivers and our administrators see how they work, I think they'll be asking for more," Kolness said.

Worth it

The Devils Lake and Crookston school districts both have video monitoring systems on their buses.

Tom Dion, the transportation director for Devils Lake Public Schools, said the district has had video cameras on the buses for about 15 years. He called the systems, which cost between $1,200 and $1,500 for each of the district's 25 buses, "worth it."

"When we get a problem, we can go back and see what really happened and deal with the consequence as needed," Dion said.

He has been the district's transportation director for 25 years. He said one to two tapes are typically reviewed each day to resolve incidents that come down to one person's word against another's.

Grand Forks Public Schools does not provide bus service to students, except those in the district's special education program and students living on Grand Forks Air Force Base. The district contracts with Dietrich Bus Service, which does not use video cameras on its buses.

Crookston Public Schools has had video cameras in the front and back of its 18 buses for 25 to 30 years, according to Transportation Director Rick Niemela. He also said they are useful for resolving conflicts, but that the district has not had a major incident on any of its buses.

Niemela said he purchased updated video systems in December for $1,635 per bus.

Dion said the systems, now all digital, have come a long way since the times of using tape. "There's a lot of good systems out there," Dion said. "They're just like computers, you know, you buy one and there's always a better one."