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Colfax schools to use biometrics for lunch program IDs

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  Students in the Colfax school district will only have to keep track of their index fingers this fall while they are going through the lunch line.

The School District of Colfax will be using a form of identification called biometrics that uses the student’s finger to create a unique ID for that student, said Bill Yingst, district administrator, at the Colfax Board of Education’s July 18 meeting.

The IDconnect Finger system takes a series of measurements that results in a unique identity for each student’s finger, he explained.

IDconnect Finger is available to school districts that use the Skyward information system, Yingst said.

The Board of Education approved switching to Skyward at the April meeting.

Skyward is a computer software system that contains student information and information related to the hot lunch program, special education and financial services.

The school board approved switching to Skyward after learning that CESA No. 10 will no longer be supporting the information system the school district had been using.

Included in the school board’s packet for the July 18 meeting was a letter that will be sent out to parents explaining biometrics and the IDconnect Finger system.

Yingst emphasized to board members that the biometrics system is not fingerprinting students.

The letter also emphasizes that IDconnect is not fingerprinting students.

The measurements of the student’s finger are converted to a number that is encrypted and stored, according to the letter.

“The system is one directional. Without the finger being placed on the reader, we have no knowledge of style of fingerprint or how many measurements went into the matching process to create this unique numeric,” the letter states.

“Once this system is implemented, your son or daughter is in complete control of their own identity. They only can be identified by placing their finger on the reader. This dramatically protects them from losing an ID number or sharing that number with other students,” according to the letter.

The Colfax school district has 860 students, Yingst said.

In the past, students were given a lunch card, but the students would lose the cards, he said.

The school district then tried using a four-digit PIN number, but the problem with a PIN is that a student can enter the wrong number or can use the PIN assigned to another student, Yingst said.

“We are trying to avoid mischarging on food service … this should make things more accurate,” he said.

Several school board members wondered if biometrics have been used by other school districts.

The system has been used by other school districts that use the Skyward system, and from all reports, the use of biometrics as a form of identification has been successful, Yingst said.

The Skyward program will be used for the school district’s hot lunch program, for payroll and for accounting, he noted.

Other business 

In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:

• Learned that the Colfax school district is expecting a 3.62 percent increase in state aid, representing a $185,181 increase over state aid of $5,110,062 for the 2015-2016 school year. According to the list from the state Department of Public Instruction included in the school board packet, some school districts will receive an increase in state aid for the 2016-2017 school year, and some districts will lose state aid. For example, Chetek-Weyerhauser will lose $517,821 in state aid (14.82 percent decrease).

• Decided not to make any changes to student fees for the 2016-2017 school year.

• Approved hiring the following staff members: Taliah Eiseth (first grade); Melissa Seehaver (first grade); Jennifer Mohr (second grade); John Dickensen (fourth or fifth grade); Michael Hodel (physical education); Adam Davison (high school history).

• Accepted the resignation of Kim Knutson as a bus driver for the Colfax school district. According to the letter of resignation, Knutson has accepted a new position with Wal-Mart.

• Approved Delta Dental as the dental insurance carrier for the 2016-2017 school year. The rates will increase by nine percent.

• Approved WEA Trust as the health insurance carrier for the 2016-2017 school year. The rates will increase by ten percent.

• Approved The Standard as the long-term and short-term disability insurance carrier for the 2016-2017 school year.