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New Jersey Schools Adopt RFID to Secure Their Facilities

The Belleville School District is deploying active tags and readers to track the locations of all personnel and students within its schools and on its buses, as well as at "blue light" telephones on the campuses.
By Claire Swedberg

Each bus will be equipped with two cameras, along with an RFID reader with a GPS unit and wireless modem, that will send read data back to the system's software. In that way, the district knows who is on that bus, as well as at what location each child entered and exited the vehicle. The driver will also wear the RFID badge on a lanyard equipped with panic buttons.

Finally, the school is installing emergency "blue light" telephones (a blue light is installed above a phone, indicating that emergency calls can be placed at the location) around its campus, so that students could instantly contact 911 in the event of an emergency. An RFID reader will be installed on each phone, in order to identify the active tag IDs of all students and personnel in the immediate area, thereby allowing the software to determine who is in the vicinity of the emergency, or is placing the call.

What's more, Wade adds, if a fight or injury has occurred, or if a parent is concerned that a child might not be in class, for example, the software can be used to indicate where that individual was and when. To ensure that every student and staff member brings the tag to school on a daily basis, an employee will check the tags as each person enters. Any students who forgot their tags could then be sent to the office to acquire a temporary replacement.

According to Longo, the technology may also eliminate the need for teachers to take attendance at the beginning of each class. That, he estimates, could save six or seven minutes of teaching time per class. The district's priority, however, is to provide a safe school setting. "My message is simple," Longo states. "As a board member, I never want to have to explain to a parent [after an emergency event] that we could have done more." The technology will be fully installed in about one month, he notes, adding, "By the time we're done, I believe we will be able to claim we are the most secure school district in the country."

The Spring Independent School District installed Wade Garcia's RFID technology at its schools in 2006, beginning with Wunsche High School. This replaced an existing passive RFID solution that failed to provide the location granularity the school district required. The district now knows when every student and staff member arrives at one of the campuses, where each individual moves throughout the day and when he or she exits the building, explains Ringo Tseng, Wade Garcia's VP. The cards also come with a bar-coded ID number printed on the front that can be scanned at the library and cafeteria. When that occurs, the scanned ID is again sent to the system's software, where the bar-coded ID is linked to that particular student. The system then forwards that data to the school's existing management software for library checkout information, or for school lunch payments.

The Spring Independent School District is currently in the process of installing the technology on buses, as well to capture a record of which students are on which of its 200 buses at all times. The Texas district is tracking approximately 30,000 students using 602 readers; its staff declined to comment for this story. A private school in New York is also installing the technology for the current school year, Wade says, though that school has asked to remain unnamed.

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