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Baltimore County schools begin new identification card program

Students who filed into Lansdowne High School today will be wearing identification badges with their photo and a bar code as part of a new program being rolled out by Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) this week.

On Wednesday, Aug. 27, the first day of school, their teachers and administrators wore similar badges, either on a lanyard around their neck or a belt clip, and had to swipe them at kiosks before they enter the building.

Using an identification card to access parts of the building isn't foreign to many students at Lansdowne High where a "swipe system" has been used for the past four years, said Lansdowne High principal Ken Miller.

It was implemented to keep attendance, make parents aware of what their children were doing throughout the school day and inform them if they were late to school or class, he said.

"They swiped in to enter the building, to visit guidance, to go to the bathroom," Miller said. "So this is nothing new."

What will be new is wearing the identification card throughout the day, Miller said.

The school on Hollins Ferry Road is one of 12 Baltimore County high schools, along with 10 elementary schools, that will pilot a new attendance program, a component of the BCPS rollout of the One-card system for staff and students, which aims to improve safety and security in public schools across the county, said Dale Rauenzhan, executive director of school safety and security at BCPS.

The school system is gradually building the infrastructure needed to support the program and expects that the attendance program will be in all schools by the end of the school year, Rauenzhan said.

The high schools were chosen to pilot the program because they previously used a "swipe" system, in which students were required to swipe an identification card to enter the school building, Rauenzhan said.

Those schools include: Catonsville, Dundalk, Frankin, Kenwood, Milford Mill Academy, Overlea, Parkville, Patapsco, Perry Hall, Randallstown and Woodlawn.

Ten elementary schools that are part of the "Lighthouse" pilot program, which is integrating technology into teaching methods, will also participate. They include: Chase, Church Lane, Edmondson Heights, Fort Garrison, Halstead, Hawthorne, Joppa View, Lansdowne, Mays Chapel and Rodgers Forge.

"All those different pieces we're putting together to make sure they're functioning correctly, and we'll roll it out to the rest of the high schools, the rest of the middle schools and all of the elementary schools," Rauenzhan said.

Staff members received their ID cards last year. The school system will distribute identification cards to 102,000 students this week. The remaining 8,000 students, comprised of mostly kindergarteners, who need to have their photo taken, will receive theirs within the next two weeks, said Rauenzhan.

The cards will be free upon the first issue and $5 for a replacement if they are lost. It costs $1 for a temporary card.

"We have to be understanding of students who are homeless and in the [Free and Reduced Price Meal] program and we are monitoring those types of fees very closely," Rauenzhan said.

While the school system doesn't expect students to wear the card during physical education activities, chemistry lab or other activities, where it may be unsafe, they will be required to wear it for most of the day, Miller said.

"It has to become part of the culture," Miller said. "As long as the parents are supportive, it will be fine."

All students will be using their cards to check out materials from the library, Rauenzhan said

"We see this as a vital part of our strategic plan for five years of making sure we're trying to keep our schools as safe and secure as possible," Rauenzhan said.

The plan, called Blueprint 2.0, includes four categories: academics, safety and security, communications and organizational effectiveness.

According to the school system, other safety and security initiatives in the school system include:

• the Raptor visitor identification system,

• police visits to elementary schools,

• a surveillance system for elementary schools

• expansion of student resource officers (SROs) program in middle and high schools.

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