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Houston school district implements RFID card system

Houston’s Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District can now notify parents when their students arrive and depart on buses, as well as process school cafeteria lines more quickly and efficiently with the implementation of a new district-wide RFID card system.

As reported by the Houston Chronicle, the district decided on the system after meetings with principals and administrators. The district opted for a multi-use card, complete with a photo of the student.

The district enlisted Zonar Systems to install the ID card system at a cost of $1.6 million, paid for with funds from a 2014 bond package that were initially intended for transportation and communication purposes. The system includes software, hardware and licensing, while the annual costs to maintain the system will run an estimated $100,000 and will be split between the food service and transportation departments.

The district — which boasts a total enrollment of 113,000 students — started phasing in the ID card system at the start of the school year with the goal of issuing cards to all students in time for the 2016-17 school year. All students will be required to have a card for identification purposes, as well as for use on school buses, in cafeterias and libraries.

Only two high school campuses were using student IDs prior to the district’s implementation of the Zonar system. With the advent of the new district-wide system, roughly two-thirds of the district’s 88 campuses are now using the system.

Elementary students are being issued two cards — one to be kept in the classroom for the cafeteria and library and a second card to be attached to their backpack for use on the bus.

With the new ID system, school officials are able determine when a student arrives home, as well as know in near real time whether the student got off the bus at the correct stop. The transportation department, which moves around 78,000 students each day, can more easily assess student loads.

Elsewhere, card swipes now replace the previous method of entering in a six-digit number, helping to expedite student lines at the cafeteria, and relieve operational burdens for the district’s food services department.

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