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South Hills

Electronic passes provide added level of security at TJHS

| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, 9:48 p.m.

If a Thomas Jefferson High School student leaves class to run to his locker, school teachers and administrators know.

If a student needs to use the water fountain, they know.

And most importantly, if there ever is an emergency and the school needs to be evacuated, teachers and administrators know the whereabouts of every student.

Electronic hall passes allow teachers and administrators to know where all 900-plus Thomas Jefferson High School students are at all times.

“It’s an additional security measure,” said Adam Knaresborough, TJ assistant principal. “Let’s say we had to evacuate and a teacher’s like, ‘Two of my kids are in the bathroom. I don’t know where they are.’ I could look and see who they are. I could see a picture of them, and it gives us that data real time of where they are so we can go find them.”

In the past, teachers scribbled permission to leave class down on a piece of paper when a student left.

The idea to go electronic came from Scott Milburn, assistant superintendent of secondary education, who saw the program in use at Montour High School.

School board members in June approved the purchase of Eduspire Solutions and E-hallpass web-based software and mobile apps for TJ for the 2018-19 school year, at a cost of $4,500.

The push came in part because of the pending opening of the new Thomas Jefferson High School. The building will feature more learning space for students in a college campus-like environment, Knaresborough said.

Therefore, tracking students’ whereabouts will become even more important.

The online program allows teachers to create a pass for students at the click of a button. Students also can use their school-issued Chromebooks to create their own passes for the bathroom, water fountain and locker — provided the teacher allows it. That way they don’t have to interrupt class to go get a drink of water.

Students still raise their hands and ask if they can go to the bathroom or to their lockers in Lauren Kaszonyi’s classroom. Then, they create a pass themselves and head out the door.

“In some sense, I think it gives students a little more autonomy and independence,” she said.

If a principal wants to see a student, they can view their schedule and create a pass for them to come to the office at a set time. The student and teacher both are notified on their devices. Students also can opt to receive an email when they’re scheduled to be somewhere.

The system tracks what passes are issued to each student and how often.

If a student is going to the bathroom six times a day for 10 minutes each time, teachers and administrators will know. They also can use the data to tell parents where their kids are if need be.

“We want them in class,” Knaresborough said.

Students and staff have picked up quickly on the new technology, Knaresborough said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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