Scanner scuttle

Will schools see “James Bond software” in lunch rooms?

By Sarah Pridgeon

Crook County School District has assured parents that no firm plans have been made to install palm scanners in school lunch rooms. Calling it a “perfect storm of miscommunication,” Teresa Brown, Director of Curriculum, explained that an early idea had been mistakenly announced as a final decision and that no such action will be taken without input from parents and the community.

“I envisioned a problem being solved in Moorcroft, I didn’t know it would go to all schools,” said Brown at last week’s public meeting for parents. “Other, larger schools use the system, but I don’t think it’s needed here and the parents have the last word.”

The system was mistakenly communicated to parents as a firm decision, confirmed Elementary School Principal Kathy Hood. “I didn’t know about it, and personally I don’t think we need it here – I just received a communication and was told I needed to get it out.”

Parents responded to the accidental announcement with concern, worrying that the system could be hacked and was unnecessary. “As my son said, why does rural America need James Bond software?” remarked parent Becky Easley.

According to Brown, installing palm scanners was initially conceived as a solution to the lunch room problem in Moorcroft High School, where 300 children, from kindergarten to high school, are fed in an undersized room. Food continues to be served almost until the buses arrive, said Brown, and some children barely have time to sit down before their lunch hour is over.

The size of the lunch room will continue to be a problem in Moorcroft until the new, larger school is completed in three or four years, said Brown. Palm scanners were suggested as a temporary fix to help lines move more quickly.

The issue does not exist in Sundance High School, she continued, because the lunch room is bigger, allowing more tables to be set, and only half the number of children requires feeding. The scanners were not originally intended for both sites and remain optional for Sundance.

Of 600 students at Moorcroft High School, said Brown, only 38 have opted out of the palm scanner system. Surveys are being performed to investigate the viability of the system.

Responding to parental concerns about the system, Brown explained that a sanitizer would likely be placed ahead of the silverware to prevent the spreading of germs. In her opinion, scanning hands could be a faster, easier method of moving children through the line partly because a palm, unlike a card, can’t be left at home and partly because a palm reader is more accurate and won’t refuse to read.

Brown promised to take feedback from parents to central office and asked attendees to complete forms indicating whether they would support use of palm scanners in the Sundance school lunch room.

Palm scanners work with the currently used Power Lunch system by turning input into a series of 0s and 1s as children place their hands on it, much like a grocery scanner. The cost of installation would be $250 per site, with no other associated fees.