Santa Paula Times

Isbell students swipe card for food

February 23, 2001
Santa Paula News
Isbell Middle School is the sixth school in the Santa Paula Elementary School District to have meal time switched from ordinary to high tech. Changing over from the routine way of charging for lunches to swiping a card, similar to an ATM card, brings new situations. A new challenge for some of the students is to be responsible for keeping track of their own card and bring it to breakfast, nutrition, and lunch. At the elementary level, the cards are kept in a rack until the students come through the meal line. Grace Thille Elementary is the last school in the district to go online, and they will join the other schools probably in April.If a student misplaces the card, their seven-digit student identification number is entered into the computer. Students and faculty may deposit money into their individual accounts and each time the card registers in the computer, the food bill is deducted from their account.According to Ruth Ricards, food service director, nutrition break is a challenge needing an increased effort to make it run smoother.``Four hundred students enter the cafeteria for something nutritious at the nutrition break and there is only 10 minutes to serve the students,'' said Ricards. ``We are working to improve to get them through faster. We now have five computers in operation at nutrition and open the snack shop. Our goal, in the next few weeks is to install a card scanner and 10 number key pad combination device, something similar to an ATM machine.''
The device will allow the students that remembered their card to scan it, and if the student forgot or lost their card, they can enter their own seven digit ID number. The new hardware should speed up the lines and prevent students from having to wait.``The system will be the most effective in the fall when the students return,'' said Ricards. ``In years past, the food service manager had to determine the eligibility status for each student, assign them a four-digit lunch number and issue the number to the student. The process slowed the line. Now, with the computer program, the eligibility status is private and is in the database, so, all the student needs to do is enter their ID number.''