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EASTON, Pa. – Educators and parents are anxious as schools get ready for classes this fall due to the upsurge in school shootings. They all agree that school campus security needs an upgrade.

In the Easton Area School District, officials are rolling out a contactless smart card-based identity management system to protect students and staff members.

When they go back in the fall, students will get a smart card to check in and out with with a single tap. This method is part of the new ScholarChip program.

“Smart cards are not going to be a whole lot different than student ID cards,” said John Remaley who works in Easton’s safe schools department.

How the Smart Card System Works

Students are enrolled and given a smart card. When they board the bus, they tap their card, which signals that they are on board.

When they get to school, they tap the card again. The information can show administrators and parents if kids are late, if they made it safely, or even if they’re present in their classrooms. A faculty member will be able to see the student’s photo, which will appear on a mobile device, such as a tablet, or other monitor screen.

The main objective is to use the smart cards to help track students and guests that visit the school, making schools safer all around. Image result for smart card tap and go

Due to smart card technology, the cards can be used for a lot more too, such as purchasing lunches at the cafeteria, purchasing supplies at the gift shop, borrowing books from the library, and earning credits due to positive performances in test-taking, attendance, and class participation.

The contactless smart ID cards can also be used in the lunchroom to make sure kids with allergies do not accidentally eat something that could harm them.

“I think it will have a significant impact not only on school safety, but from an operations standpoint,” said Assistant Superintendent Alyssa Emili. ScholarChip will also synch with the district’s attendance system.

Privacy and Surveillance Concerns

The Easton Area School Board voted Tuesday night to put this system into their schools. There was overwhelming support, but not everybody is excited.

Some, including a few board members last month, raised concerns that this program could become a slippery slope when it comes to surveillance. The ask, what’s next?

However, supports contend that better security and safer campuses significantly outweigh the potential risk of overstepping students’ and faculty privacy.

In response to these concerns, the board still decided to implement only one part of the ScholarChip program for now.

Next Steps: School ID Smart Card Issuance

The district plans to implement the system in two stages: the first, by Oct. 15, 2018 will include the required technology for the visitor system at all schools and the check-in system at the middle school and high school. The second phase, to be implemented by Jan. 7, includes a bus attendance component in which all students will have to swipe their cards to get on and off the bus.

According to Remaley, all students in all buildings in the district will use the visitor’s identity management system and the bus management system this fall.

They will implement the smart card tap-and-go student entry system where they tap cards to enter and exit the high school and middle school.

The board says it will monitor how the program is working around January, and then move forward from there.

The school board president says ScholarChip will be paid for initially with money from the general fund, and the district plans to apply for security grant funds as well.

The new technology, licensing, supplies and training will cost about $160,000 in the first year and $28,000 in the second year.

The district has already committed to spending on school security this year. In March, district officials announced plans to hire at least 10 part-time armed officers so someone could be stationed at every school throughout the school day. At the time, school board President George Chando estimated the investment could cost the district between $250,000 and $300,000.