Biometrics Fingerprinting System Coming to Greater Egg Schools This Week
Implementation is coming to Oakcrest on Friday; Absegami and Cedar Creek to follow.
A biometric fingerprinting system is coming to the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District this week.
The system will be used for students only when it comes to purchasing their school lunches. It begins with Oakcrest High School on Friday, Feb. 8, and moves on to Absegami and Cedar Creek, assuming everything works as expected at Oakcrest.
Generally, biometrics desribes the tracking of people by their characteristics or traits.
The idea for Greater Egg Schools is that eventually, students won’t have to use cash for their lunches. An account can be set up for each student, and lunches can be charged to those accounts via a system that identifies students by characteristics of their fingerprints, though won’t be identified using the entire fingerprint.
“It eliminates the use of cash in the building, making it less of a liability,” Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District Board of Education Secretary and School Business Administrator Charles Muller told the board at its meeting Monday night, Feb. 4 at Oakcrest. “
However, that system, known as Meal Pay Plus, won’t be implemented immediately.
School officials said the system is being implemented for efficiency.
“Right now, if students forget their ID cards, they have to get a temporary card and present that. It’s time consuming,” Muller said. “This way, a student can just use their finger.”
According to Board Solicitor Will Donio, the use of biometrics is becoming more commonplace in schools, particularly in cafeterias. Locally, elementary schools in Hammonton and Hamilton Township use the system, according to board officials.
In a broader sense, biometrics is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. Fingerprinting falls under the category of physiological biometrics, which includes identification by voice or DNA. Behavorial biometrics is the other category used for tracking purposes.
The system has been used in schools internationally since the early part of the 21st century. In addition to use in school cafeterias, the system has been used to address truancy and replace library cards.
Board member Robert Ross questioned if the system could be used in the school’s stores. Although it is strictly designed for the cafeteria at this point, Muller said the district could look into that possibility.
Since its inception, there have been some concerns about privacy issues as it relates to biometrics. Part of that concern has to do with the creation of databases as a result of the fingerprinting technology.
According to Muller, there will be no permanent records kept as a result of the collection of fingerprint identification, and there is no chance for identity theft.
He also stated that students who object to the system for reasons religious or otherwise will not be forced to become a part of it.
Muller also said he sent out a letter to parents on Jan. 18 to inform them of the implementation of the system.
“I have not heard anything back,” Muller said. “ … If I don’t hear anything back, I assume consent.”
According to Muller, the school district has been working with its food service program, Sedexho and its staff concerning the implementation of the system.
Sedexho is also paying for the program. Muller didn't have exact figures for costs on hand Monday night.
Horizon will install the system on Wednesday and implementation is scheduled to take place Friday.
If everything goes as planned by Monday, Feb. 11, the system will move on to Absegami and Cedar Creek.