A special committee studying whether video cameras should be installed on Beaufort County School District buses asked school administrators Wednesday to research updated cost information for camera purchase and rental.
The committee, formed last week by the Board of Education, held its first meeting Wednesday to discuss the cameras, an idea considered last year and revived last week by a concerned mother's petition.
If purchased, the cameras would cost more than $230,000, depending on how many are installed, according to one estimate by district staff.
However, according to information gathered last year, cameras could be rented for the approximately 160 buses, with annual costs ranging from $71,064 for one camera at the front of each bus to $90,720 for four cameras per bus.
The district would need permission from the state before camera installation could occur on the state-owned buses, according to Gary Bradley of Durham School Services, the school district's bus contractor.
Currently, Bradley said drivers try to separate boys and girls on the buses and seat younger children up front where the drivers can better monitor them. If problems occur, drivers are expected to tell district officials, who are to investigate and discipline students involved. Disciplinary actions can include a warning letter or loss of bus-riding privileges.
District staff was directed Wednesday to gather more information, including details on the types of cameras available for rent, updated costs and how the school district could pay for them.
Phyllis White, district chief of operations, said the staff has spoken with several districts that are using the cameras, and they say the cameras make it easier to determine who is at fault and decide the appropriate disciplinary action.
Committee chairman Michael Rivers said there have been 11 or 12 incidents on school buses this year, a relatively low number, with most of them at the elementary school level.
Committee member Julie Bell said she believes the problems are becoming more serious.
"I hate that 11 incidents can hold us hostage like this, but (the cameras) do come in handy," she said.