Southwest Licking middle and high school students are spending more time eating and less time waiting in lunch lines, according to district officials.
Ginger Parsons, director of food services, told the school board Jan. 16 that new fingerprint-scanning technology is being implemented in the middle and high schools to help lunch lines operate more smoothly.
The same technology will be installed in the elementary schools later this year after "some of the kinks are worked out" of the existing systems, Parsons said.
Parents of elementary school students will receive a letter in March explaining how the technology will work.
She estimated the fingerprint system will decrease the amount of time that students spend in the lunch line by roughly 30 percent.
"It'll speed up the line and give them more time to eat," Parsons said.
She said the school installed the biometric software in each cafeteria to increase the efficiency and security of the serving-line transactions.
The biometric system consists of a small fingerprint scanner that identifies each student as he or she passes through the serving line.
Once the student is identified, the biometric software passes the number pattern assigned to that student to the serving line software and connects the student back to his or her account information.
An image of the fingerprint is not stored in any database at any time and parents may ask for their children to opt out of the program.
Parsons said the fingerprint quality isn't nearly that of a scanner that would record fingerprints for official uses, such as criminal background checks.
Parsons, who also is food service director for Licking Heights schools, oversaw the implementation of similar technology in 2012 at Licking Heights.
Parsons said the biometric input system provides added security because ID numbers can no longer be used incorrectly or dishonestly.
"It secures accounts so other kids can't use their ID numbers," Parsons said.
She said abuse of Southwest Licking's lunch-charging policy is more prevalent in the high school than the lower grades.
"More of the abuse of the charging is with the older kids," Parsons said. "They probably should remember to bring their lunch money, so we may revisit that policy down the road."
Last year, Southwest Licking revised its policy of allowing three unpaid charges per student in all buildings when the total of unpaid charges topped $8,000.
The rules were changed to allow elementary school children three charges, middle school students two and high school students one charge each.
Parsons said the current total of unpaid charges is $1,059.
She said middle and high school students may experience more restrictions.
"The elementary (charges) are not unreasonable, but we only allow one charge at the high school, so that's kind of a bad thing," she said.