Visalia school uses app to fight excessive tardies


Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia is using technology to encourage students to earn certain privileges. It's called Student Scan Identification Card Authorization or SSSICA. Using a smartphone, school administrators scan student IDs to determine whether they have permission to leave campus for lunch or attend an event like a football game.

Armed with smartphones and standing guard at the gate, Mt. Whitney High School administrators are zapping student IDs. It's the school's latest effort to combat excessive tardies and keep track of students both on and off campus during lunch.

"Anytime you're in charge of an old school with lots of points of ingress and egress, it's important that you work hard to monitor those points and try to make sure you that provide a safe environment for our kids," said Mt. Whitney Principal Jeff Hohne.

The app was created last summer by Assistant Principal Dr. Pete Chavez, and launched at the beginning of the school year.

"This is, I think, a need that a lot of schools have where we can scan ID cards and instantly see can see if this student owes any fines, owes any Saturday schools or lunch detentions, and that way we can give privileges to kids," said Chavez.

The concept is simple: if a student has more than three tardies in a week, they get detention. If the detention hasn't been served, the screen turns red, and they're turned away. If it has, the screen appears green, and the student is allowed off campus for lunch.

"We used to have a big problem with kids coming in late to fifth period," said Chavez. "Now that we've started scanning kids and providing consequences right after lunch, our tardies have really diminished."

For example, before the program, school administrators say between 200 and 250 students had more than three tardies a week. Now, that number has dropped to around 80 or 90, and students say they're making more of an effort to get to class on time.

"I like it because it keeps my attendance in check with graduation and then my late fees, so I'm not last-minute hustling to get my late fee paid off," said Hannah Bachtelle.

You can find the app for free for both iPhone and Android in the app store. Subscription prices range from $1,800 to $2,600 depending on the school level. And schools in Chowchilla, Exeter and as far away as Texas are now looking into launching similar programs.

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