By the end of the year, nearly 500 cameras will be watching Beaufort County public school students aboard their buses.
The Board of Education unanimously approved a contract Tuesday to install three cameras on each of the 166 buses in use in the district. Board member Steven Morello was absent.
The district will buy the cameras for $256,800 from Charlotte-based Fortress Systems, using its capital funds.
The decision to install cameras was prompted by a Beaufort Elementary School mother's petition. Christina Chandler has said her three children have been bullied on the bus this year and believes cameras would determine which students are at fault in bus incidents and would deter discipline problems.
The cameras will be mounted in the front, back and middle of the buses and will have both video and audio recording capabilities. The tapes will be reviewed after an incident takes place and at random, said student services chief Gregory McCord.
The cameras will also watch the bus drivers.
School board member Bill Evans said Durham School Services, the district's bus service contractor, needs to be informed that its drivers will be monitored.
Board members asked about how parents and students would be notified about the cameras.
The district plans to send letters home, as well as include information in newsletters and notify students at their schools when the cameras start rolling.
Cameras will be used as soon as they are installed, instead of waiting for all buses to be outfitted, said district chief operational services officer Phyllis White.
The contract includes installation, a three-year parts and labor warranty, training for employees and technical support. The cameras have a 10-year life span.
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Related content: Parent starts petition for school-bus cameras; Aug. 28, 2012