LL Schools consider palm scanners

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Los Lunas Schools may soon adopt hand-scanning technology to expedite student lunch lines.

The technology, recently demonstrated at a Los Lunas Board of Education meeting, helps speed up lunch lines to give students more time to eat their meals. It can also block lunch theft by students using another student's I.D. number.

Principals are always asking how staff can speed up the lunch lines, said Angela Haney, director of student nutrition services.

"Over the years, there have been lots of new ideas on how to get kids through the lines faster," Haney said.

Check lists were tried, I.D. cards students could scan similar to debit cards, and fingerprints were tried, but cards were lost and expensive to replace, while kindergarten children's fingerprints were just too small.

The newest idea is palm scanners, and about 20 school districts across the country are using them, she said.

The technology is proclaimed safe because no images are stored in the database, and each palm vein pattern is converted to a 256-character code. Scanners will allow parents to keep track of what their child is purchasing, and might also be used for enrollment or bus passes.

Each scanner costs $264. The cost of the new hardware is about $30,000, and the software, $70,000, said Claire Cieremans, the district's chief financial officer.

In February, the board approved the purchase of the new hard drives and software that included six palm scanners for a pilot project to test them for any issues before purchasing scanners for every school, Cieremans said.

About 2,600 letters were sent in late March to parents at Los Lunas Elementary, Los Lunas Middle School and Los Lunas High schools to notify them about the scanners. Parents could choose not to participate in the new technology pilot, and 200 parents opted out of the program.

Two of the parents who don't want their child to participate in the trial feel the technology compromises a child's identity, and the money could be better spent.

"There are a lot of parents who are against it, but they're not here because they didn't know it," said Wendy Meek, a parent with four children in the school district.

The whole purpose for going to this new software and looking at this latest technology is to make sure the children get served faster, more efficiently and in a more secure manner.

The district's plan is to purchase scanners for every school in the fall if the pilot program is successful, Cieremans said.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.