Alachua County public school students to get photo ID cards

Alachua County public school officials provided this sample showing how the new student IDs will look.

Courtesy of Alachua County Public Schools
Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 5:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 5:50 p.m.

Alachua County Public School students will soon have photo ID cards that they can swipe on school buses and use to check out library books and buy school lunch.

During this school year, each student will receive a card with a barcode on it, containing the student’s school district ID number and a photo.

Kindergartners and students who are new to the district will not have photos on their cards, since they’ll be issued before school picture day, school spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said. All other Alachua County public school students will have photos on file from the previous year.

The cards have multiple purposes, similar to Gator1 cards used at the University of Florida. But a main purpose of the public schools’ ID cards is safety.

Students who ride school buses will be expected to swipe their cards through a card reader when they get on and off, school transportation director James Speer said, “To be able to know who’s riding our buses and who isn’t.”

Card readers and GPS devices will be installed on each of the district’s 213 school buses and will be functional shortly after Labor Day, he said.

The card reader-GPS system will enable school staff to know immediately where a certain bus is, and if a student is riding it.

If a bus is late, or a student doesn’t make it to where he or she is expected to be, that system can help.

“It is going to help us in terms of safety, which is a primary goal of the transportation department in dealing with students,” Speer said.

Swiping ID cards will help the district establish an accurate ridership count when it must report those numbers to the Department of Education to receive funding.

The district faced scrutiny from the DOE last year when it misreported the number of students riding school buses, resulting in a loss of some state funding.

The cards and the lanyards that will be issued with them will cost the district less than $10,000 each year, said Scott Ward, assistant superintendent for business services.

Alachua County Public Schools will pay $83,100 this year for the bus routing and student tracking system, and $111,758 a year for the next four years.

The new system is also being used to make new bus routes. The routing system, also expected to be functional after Labor Day, is replacing a 15-year-old system that Johnson said needed replacement.

Speer said the new routing system will result in more efficient bus routes, which means cutting travel time and fuel costs, as well.

For the first two weeks of school, while district staff works to get the card readers and GPS devices installed, the ID cards will only serve their in-school purposes.

Cards will be scanned when students are issued textbooks and when they buy lunch in the cafeteria. They can be used to check out books from the media center, as well. Students will still be able to use their ID number without their ID card to check out books and buy school lunch.

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