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GPS Tracking Puts Parents at Ease
GPS Tracking Puts Parents at Ease

A school in California has used an innovative wireless solution to ease parents' minds when their children are off on class trips.

Christ Lutheran School, in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, is part of a Southern California institution that has been in existence for more than 75 years. The school has approximately 400 students from various parts of the greater Los Angeles area, and is recognized as a leading educational institution in the Palos Verdes area. Christ Lutheran's success is in part due to its ability to provide a quality education with strong emphasis on basic skills, an enriched learning environment through the effective use of field trips, and a sense of safety and security for both students and parents.

The Situation
Each year elementary and high schools send classes on field trips. Since the rise in violence against school children, the attacks of September 11, and the ongoing presence in Iraq, class trips to distant major cities have caused parents undue stress. They find it tough to balance a desire to let their children leave home and explore with a natural concern about safety. In the last two years, trip participation has dropped by approximately one-third.

The school has a 20-year tradition of going to Washington, DC, for a field trip. Despite that tradition, after 9/11 people have been a bit antsy about travel ­ let alone sending their children on a trip across the country.

The Solution
To help allay parents' concerns about an eighth-grade class field trip to Washington, DC, Christ Lutheran School recently worked with Wherify Wireless (www.wherifywireless.com) to provide one of their GPS tracking devices to accompany 35 students to Washington, DC. Instead of putting the device on each child, two adult chaperones shared possession of it.

Utilizing the existing GPS and cellular phone networks, this unique device allowed parents to track the group's location via the Internet. This kept the focus of the trip on education and kept parents and students from feeling the need to use cellphones to provide updates on the group during activities.

The Results
Parents were able to log on to the Wherify Web site and find their child's location within 1­30 meters of accuracy with any location fix. The locator enables the wearer to be tracked in most locations. The Wherify Web site posted maps showing the group's location and even aerial views of the location the group was in. Stacy Russo, a parent on the trip stated, "I thought the device was cool because there were a lot of parents who were really concerned."

Student Tim Joyce and his mother, Andrea, went on the trip. Andrea received a call from her husband saying, "I know where you are." She stated that, "Similar uses of the device would be very comforting because you could use the service on the Internet to find out where your children are and know that they got there safely. All of those things, when you're expecting that phone call and it never comes. You could just check and see that the school bus is on the road between destinations."

Tim said, "I kind of like it because I don't have to call my parents as much ­ they can just check on me."

"Parents were pleased with being able to track the students' progress through the Washington, DC area," said Robert Gourley, director of the school's board of education. "With devices like the Wherify locator, we believe participation and parent satisfaction in such events will be higher in the future."

With the aerial photo feature, parents were able to live vicariously throughout the trip. For example, they could see the position of the students on an archived photo at the front steps of the Jefferson Memorial.

"This was a way to get a feel of how it would work and to put parents' minds at ease," Christ Lutheran principal Jim Neumann said. "This was my introduction to the technology, and it was exciting to see the possibilities."

About Mark Buczko
Mark Buczko is vice president of the board of directors for Christ Lutheran
Church and School in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and managing partner
at NMC Partners (www.nmcpartners.com), a Long Beach­based public relations
firm. Mark has worked with wireless communication, location, and navigation
clients in the United States and Europe. He holds an advanced degree from
the University of Southern California.

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