When East Baton Rouge Parish public school buses roll this fall they'll have some new features likely to please parents, including the ability to tell them where their children are at all times.

The tracking process involves an ID scanning system to read chips on student badges, allowing parents to track their children’s progress to and from school via a web application.

The School Board on Thursday gave tentative approval to a proposal to seek bids from vendors that specialize in such equipment, with final action expected May 18.

The plan is to have new devices installed on the school system’s 600-plus buses by the Aug. 10 start of the 2017-18 school year.

Chief of Student Support Services Gary Reese, who oversees transportation, told the board he wants proposals from companies to provide an ID scanning system that detects when students get on and off a bus; a hands-free console for cell phone communications and a tablet computer built into the dashboard that will track location and speed of the bus and update routes in real-time.

Reese gave the board several examples of devices other school districts use.

For the web app, he pointed to one called WheresTheBus as a possibility.

“If the bus is late, they can see through the bus app exactly where they are,” Reese said.

Board members expressed support for buying the new bus technology, but had a lot of questions.

Board member Vereta Lee expressed concern the tablet computers might be stolen. Reese said they will be difficult for thieves to steal because they will be affixed to the dashboard frame.

“They’re going to have to go in there and destroy some property to get it,” Reese said.

He said he does not yet know the likely cost. He said he priced just one of the key components he’s seeking and it ran about $285 per bus, which comes out to $175,000 to add that to all of his buses.

The ability to better change routes on the fly is a big draw for Reese.

“Right now, when we have a change in a route, which happens almost every day, we have to get that to the driver through other means, typically a fax to the school and the school gives that to the driver,” Reese said. “That’s somewhat antiquated and I would like it to send that to them in real time.”

Ascension Parish honors LSU gymnastics team coach

Assension Parish declared Thursday Sara “D-D” Breaux Day in honor of the LSU gymnastics coach and Donaldsonville native.

Breaux has been at the helm of Tiger gymnastics for 40 years and recently led her team to runner-up in the NCAA championships for a second consecutive year.

On Thursday,  Ascension Parish Kenny Matassa and the Parish Council presented Breaux  with an honorary certificate declaring it “D-D” Breaux Day.

“I applaud her success and her being a great ambassador for Donaldsonville, Ascension Parish, Louisiana, LSU and the rest of the world,” Matassa told Breaux and the council at the old Courthouse in Donaldsonville. “Thank you, D-D. Love you.”

Breaux, a 1971 graduate of Donaldsonville High School, told the council that her family and Matassa’s family have been close for years and that Donaldsonville has always remained a part of her. Matassa grew up in Donaldsonville, as did Breaux.

“I know that we are all a part of where we grew up. We’re all a part of our families, and we’re all a part of the people that have come in and out of our lives,” Breaux said, adding her sister gave her a sweat shirt for Christmas that had “I’m just a kid from Donaldsonville” printed on it.

After the presentations and pictures were over, Breaux told council members that LSU football coach Ed Orgeron recently shared his excitement with her about the big party held in his honor back in his hometown of Larose.

“I said, ‘Well, Coach ‘O,’ I hate to tell you, I’m getting a whole day in Donaldsonville,’” Breaux told the council members to some laughs. “He was a little bit jealous.”

Advocate staff writers Charles Lussier and David J. Mitchell contributed to this article.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier

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