USD 348 Superintendent pleased with fingerpring technology results
Thirty-six percent of Baldwin High School and Baldwin Junior High School students will pay for their school lunches this year with their fingertips.
The Baldwin Board of Education voted 4-3 this summer to pass a food service biometric fingerprint identification system. This would allow junior high and high school students to have their fingerprint scanned to charge money to their lunch accounts instead of using a card.
The students have to opt-in to the program, with the parents signing a form that states they want their child in the program. So far, Baldwin Superintendent Paul Dorathy said 290 students have opted-in to the program, and students can be added to the system at any time. Those who are not signed up for the fingerprint system will use a lunch card as in previous years.
Dorathy said having an opt-in status was the best way to implement the program.
“If it would have been any other way, I’m not sure it would have passed the board,” Dorathy said. “I think if it had been in and opt-out, that you had to let us know if you didn’t want your child in there, I think they would have said no and I think to just do it in general for every kid would have never passed. And I’m not sure we should have been doing it that way.”
Dorathy said one of the main concerns with the school board about the system was security and whether using fingerprints was necessary. Director of food service Julie Henry said the fingerprint system had better protection than a card because it prevents cards from being lost or stolen.
“From the standpoint of somebody else using a kid’s lunch account, it absolutely is going to be a more secure option,” Henry said.
Other school districts in Kansas and nationally have moved to the fingerprint system, and Henry said she spoke to other food service directors that have used the program. Many loved it but others did not, and Henry said the outcome depends on the system used and how long ago it was in place.
“It’s not always comparing apples to apples,” Henry said. “If they’re using Power Lunch and using a fingerprint identification system, their scanner might be different. The way it works might be slightly different. So their outcome might be slightly different than somebody that uses the exact system that we do.”
Baldwin uses the food service system Meal Tracker, which runs a fingerprint identification system. The school system bought three fingerprint scanners, two for the high school and one in the junior high, and the software for a one-time fee of about $900. Henry said it was really not a very expensive program and the food service budget had enough added funds, so it was decided to give this convenience to the students while they could.
Some school districts have also had the fingerprint program at the elementary level, but Baldwin has decided to keep it at the junior high and high school levels for now. Dorathy said it doesn’t mean the elementary school might not use it in the future.
“What we were advised by the company, the fingerprint scanner company, was that the younger children change,” Dorathy said. “Their growth is so rapid that their fingerprint kind of changes over time and a fingerprint that might have been good at the beginning of the year is not the same at the end of the year with a first-grader.”
Dorathy was pleasantly surprised with the amount of students signed up for the fingerprint program, and he will continue to judge how the system works throughout the year.
“As long as we’ve got these kind of numbers, 30 percent of our students wanting to use it, I think we’ll continue to do it,” Dorathy said. “If that number drops down considerably lower over time, then yeah we may decide that it wasn’t worth doing, but right now, it appears we have quite a few interested parents.”