Wednesday, August 19, 2009

No cash? Elyria High students can pay with their finger

ELYRIA — For lunch Monday, Elyria High School served up pepperoni pizza to the students who came back for the first day of classes.

But instead of students handing over cash, some placed their index fingers on small scanners and walked away with their lunches.

“I’m just really glad I don’t have to remember a number every day or have a card or something,” said 14-year-old Korey Gallaher. “All you have to do is put your finger down and go.”

With the start of the new school year well under way at the high school, a new lunch system is being piloted that will use student fingerprints instead of cards or personal identification numbers to access lunch accounts.

“As long as there is money in my account, I won’t have to worry about anything,” said 14-year-old Stephanie Nieves. “It’s going to make lunch that much easier.”

Ninth-grader Tyler Fern, 14, uses a biometrics fingerprint scanner in the lunch line Monday on the first day of school for Elyria High. (Photo by Lisa Roberson, The Chronicle-Telegram.)
As of Monday, just the freshman class is using the fingerprint program, but by this time next week the entire student body — roughly 2,100 students — and staff will have a scan of their index fingers on file.

“When it’s really up and running it will make things go a lot smoother and faster,” said Bill Jett, general manager of Sodexo, the district’s food service provider.

At a cost of roughly $91,000, Sodexo will pick up the tab to implement the program districtwide with the hope of recouping expenses over the next five years as more parents sign their children up for free or reduced lunches. The added advantage of the biometrics system is no one knows who receives free or reduced lunch or who has to pay for their meals.

There are still a few kinks to work out with the system as the small scanners located near all cash registers failed to recognize some fingerprints, prompting students to revert back to the old system of keying in personal identification codes.

Still, for those who used the new system, it was pretty cool.

“The technology is already out there for us to use biometrics in a number of ways,” said Principal Darren Conley. “In the future, we are looking at adding it to the media center for signing materials out or in the classrooms for attendance.”

Conley and the entire student body and teaching staff have a lot of other things to look forward to in the future.

This year marks the last year anyone will walk the current halls of Elyria High.

The new building will have something everyone who walked in the door Monday craved — air conditioning.

Some may see the amenity as a luxury, but don’t expect that from those walking the halls inside the hot, humid building with more than 2,200 other people, including staff.

“It is so crowded in here that sometimes it’s hard to go up the steps,” Stephanie said. “I can’t wait for the new school to open. We are going to get to experience both the old school and the new school.”

As a result, Conley, a 1981 EHS graduate, said a lot of time will be spent this year paying homage to Elyria High School.

“I have my own memories of walking through these same halls as a high-schooler,” he said. “(Monday) may be the first day of the year, but everyone knows we are thinking about closing out the building and doing it in the right way.”



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