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Touch of a Finger Replaces Paper and Pen

New School Sign-in System Part of Stronger Security


Tommy Beaty had come to the Freshman Center to see a student read an essay she had written about him. But before he could enter the building, he first signed in on a computer with the touch of his index finger on an electronic pad. He then entered personal information on the computer touch-screen, including his name, date of birth, email address and reason for his visit.

This being Beaty’s first time using the system, it spit out a yellow stick-on tag marking him as an approved visitor. Anytime he visits a Rockford school in the future, he will touch the finger pad, identify himself and get a green tag as someone who’s already been cleared for entry.

It’s called a visitor management system, and it’s now up and running in all district buildings. Instead of having visitors sign in on paper, the system enables officials to more efficiently keep track of everyone who enters their schools.

“It’s a fairly fast process that allows us to know who’s in and out of the building,” said Scott Beckman, district director of security. “It’s doing a quick background check to make sure there are not people entering the building who shouldn’t be with children.”

General Security Upgrade 

The system is part of $11 million in security improvements the district has made as part of the $76 million bond issue approved by voters in 2014. Enclosed entry vestibules and upgraded cameras have also been installed.

The finger-scan sign-in system has generally been well received since it was test-piloted in two schools last fall, Beckman said. Some people have had concerns about what the district does with the finger-scan information, he acknowledged. However, he stressed the computer does not take a physical fingerprint, but a scan that records a mathematical formula unique to that person.

“It doesn’t take your print and send it off to the FBI,” he added. “It’s not sent anywhere.”

Once the scan has been taken, the person’s identity will be recognized in all school buildings. The system also allows school personnel to do criminal background checks with the Michigan State Police ICHAT system. If any criminal history turns up, the person would be sent a letter requesting a meeting with Beckman.

Parents, volunteers and other visitors can also fill out their information on the district’s website, requiring them only to enter thefinger-scan at school.

Beaty said he didn’t mind checking in electronically, saying it was simpler than at other schools he’s visited.

“I like it,” Beaty added. “It’s actually easy.”

CONNECT

Shibler: Stronger Security System is ‘The Right Thing to Do’

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers series and issues stories for all districts. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio

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