Bossier schools delay rollout of cafeteria palm scanners

Published: Mar. 19, 2013 at 11:55 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 3, 2013 at 12:53 AM CDT
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BOSSIER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - One week after Bossier Parish parents got word that their children's schools were installing palm scanners to manage student's cafeteria accounts, the school district is delaying the rollout of the technology.

The scanners use infrared technology similar to what's used in a TV remote control to map out points unique to each student's palm.

According to school officials, it will take only seconds for the system to recognize the student's data to purchase the lunch from their school account.

Some parents raised concerns about privacy and the use of personal information, and objected to what the felt was little or no notice of the new system.

Others questioned the hygiene of the scanners, as students one after the other will place their palms over the surface.

They were set to begin use at Waller Elementary on Monday, but those concerns, plus a delay in some parents receiving the notice from their schools prompted the district to hold off on introducing them for a few more days.

A new round of letters were sent home with students on Monday, offering more details about the changes coming to the schools' cafeterias.

The letter, signed by Superintendent D.C. Machen, also offers an apology to those parents whose children have already been scanned into the system in preparation for it to go online.

"We realize information and hand scans may have already been collected at some schools prior to parents receiving proper notification. For that, we apologize. If that is the case, and you wish to opt out, your child's hand scan will be erased from the system once the school receives your written notification."

The letter emphasizes that participation in the hand scanning system is not mandatory.

Parents may "opt out" without it impacting their child's participation in the school food service program by sending written notification to their child's school, stating so.

Payments by check or cash can continue to be sent directly to the school.

After Spring Break, and as schools "go live" with the new system, online payments using a credit or debit card will also become an option. School Payment Solutions will charge a $2.50 convenience fee for each online transaction.

According to Bossier Parish School Board Public Liaison Sonja Bailes, the new system will cost $375,000 over a 5-year-period. That covers all the equipment, software, maintenance and technical support, at a cost of about $75,000 per year.

The current system, Bailes says, is 20 years old and obsolete, with no technical support.

"This cafeteria management system has been highly successful in improving the effective management processes involved with school food services, speeding up the breakfast and lunch lines at schools throughout the U.S., notes Machen in the letter."It is in all 50 states and 19 districts throughout Louisiana."

Bailes says the new system will go live at Waller Elementary on Tuesday, April 2, along with Sun City Elementary.

The process is expected to take a couple of months, because teams will be going to each school to collect the scanner data of participating students before the system is put into use. A total of 71 scanner stations will be installed throughout the district's 35 schools.

A full schedule of the rollout was not immediately available.

Click here to view the Bossier Parish School District's list of Frequently Asked Questions about the palm scanners.

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