Walk down any hall on thirteen selected campuses in Spring ISD and you will see students wearing a distinctive ID badge that does a whole lot more than show the student’s name and photograph. The badges, called Smart Tags, use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to identify when the students get on and off their school bus and where they are located on their campus for safety purposes and attendance reporting. In addition, a bar code on the tag has made purchasing school meals in the cafeteria and checking out books in the library much more efficient.
“The system has enabled us to improve our attendance data-gathering processes, student safety and system efficiency,” said Dr. Julie Guillory, student services executive director.
The web-based system produced by Wade Garcia & Associates was first piloted at Cooper Elementary School, Twin Creeks Middle School and Carl Wunsche Sr. High School from December 2008 through June 2009. It was expanded in 2009-10 to include Eickenroht, Hoyland and Major elementary schools, Dr. Edward Roberson Middle School and Spring High School. This year the system was expanded again to include five more campuses: Bailey, Bammel, Claughton, Dueitt and Wells middle schools.
Since implementing the system, Spring ISD has recovered $194,000 in Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding that would have been lost if the district had not been able to verify the attendance of students who were at school but not in their classroom when attendance was taken.
RFID readers situated throughout each campus are used to identify where students are located in the building, which can be used to verify the student’s attendance for ADA funding and course credit purposes. Students are required by law to attend a class 90 percent of the time in order to receive credit for the course, and the system can help verify eligibility.
RFID readers located on school buses verify when and where students get on or off their bus. Using RFID on buses is not a new concept for Spring ISD. The district had implemented its own RFID system for elementary school buses in 2004 and successfully used the system until the technology became outdated. The new system is much improved. It not only helps the district identify when and where students get on and off their school bus, it also helps locate students while they are on campus for attendance and safety purposes.
Christine Porter, associate superintendent for financial services, recalls an occasion when one of the campuses equipped with RFID readers evacuated the building during a fire drill. Although it was only a drill, it provided an opportunity to test the RFID system, which proved valuable when a group of students failed to evacuate.
“During an evacuation, being able to locate individuals who are still inside the school would be invaluable,” Porter said.