TPSD considers finger-scanning devices for cafeteria

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tupelo School District is considering providing its cafeterias with machines that would scan students’ fingers to identify them.
Those machines would replace the current ones that use identification numbers to pull up account information of students who buy breakfast or lunch. The new technology would make lines flow more quickly and would provide greater accuracy, said Lynne Rogers, the Tupelo Public School District’s director of food services.
Rogers made a presentation about the new technology to the school board on Tuesday. She said the machines would neither take nor store fingerprints of students. Instead, they would scan a student’s finger using several points for identification.
The new machines would costs $475 each, or $12,350 for all 26 food stations used by the district. Rogers said she would like to gradually add the technology at different schools, using a few sites as an initial pilot.
The school board will decide at a future meeting whether or not to adopt the machines.
They would be most helpful during breakfast at the elementary schools, Rogers said. Although middle- and high-school students are generally able to remember their identification numbers, Rogers said, elementary students tend to forget them. Sometimes those students also don’t know their formal names, making it more difficult, and timely, to track them in the database in order to charge their accounts for the meal.
The process is a little easier at lunch, when students come by homeroom, Rogers said, but more difficult at breakfast when they arrive in random order.
“If we give students more time to eat, we have improved our services to students and parents,” she said. “If we are able to feed more kids at breakfast, they will be better prepared for school.”
It could also speed up lunch times, Rogers said. Coahoma County Schools, which use a similar technology, told Rogers they have been able to increase the amount of time students had to eat by seven to 10 minutes.
Parents would be able to opt to not have their children use the finger scan but to instead continue to use their ID number.
She compared the finger image to getting the last four digits of someone’s social security number.
“It is like a partial image of the finger, and you can’t do anything with a finger scan,” she said. “It takes points on the fingertip and turns it into a code on the computer.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com