School to use facial recognition thermometers outside buildings

Glenn Parrish
Booneville Democrat

The Booneville School Board was presented a personal protective equipment (PPE) supply purchase made by the school district in advance of the coming school year.

The list, the cost of which is covered by the CARES stimulus pagckage passed by Congress, is highlighted by six facial recognition thermal cameras at about $2,500 apiece.

The devices will be able, once a student or staff member is captured, to recognize the face, and record a temperature, which it can store for two weeks, before an individual is permitted into a building.

“You walk by, it recognizes your face and says stick your wrist out and it takes your temperature and it logs it. They do 20 per minute,” said Goff.

The devices also reportedly work whether an individual is wearing a mask or not, and can be set to not allow entry unless a mask is worn.

In the case of a temperature exceeding a programmed limit — 100.4 is the CDC recommended level to have an individual isolate — an alert will sound to have the person report to a school nurse for verification, according to Superintendent Trent Goff.

The devices will be positioned where students enter buildings, including at the bus drop off area at the elementary school.

Also purchased were six 55-gallon drums of hand sanitizer, 4,200 washable cloth masks, 20 no contact thermometers, 30 500-pack of gloves, 20 N-95 masks, 1,500 disposable three-ply masks, and safety goggles and gowns for the wellness center and school nurses.

The purchase was made through a bidding process operated by the Guy Fenter Western Arkansas Educational Cooperative, Goff said.

The board also approved a resolution that would allow Goff, if necessary, to purchase PPE without going through a competitive bidding process.

In other matters, the new Booneville School District administration building is expected to be inhabited by the end of this week, or early next week Goff told the school board.

Goff said he and most of the staff who will be moving to the new home on Main Street from the current building on Seventh Street have already began making the move.

“We’re still waiting on a reception desk, but one of our gracious members has volunteered a lot of his time to get the fiber spliced and run for us,” said Goff. “We’ve moved quite a few things over there already. Basically the internet is up and running.

“The board table is over there. Our next board meeting will be over there. I think you’ll be impressed.”

Since April the board meetings have been held in the elementary school library to observe social distancing recommendations.

The board also approved a new school year calendar necessitated by Governor Asa Hutchinson’s directive that the school year begin between Aug. 24 and 26.

“We still have to have 178 student contact days regardless,” said Goff. “What we want to do is start school on Aug. 24 and through the governor’s directive, we can recapture some of the days through virtual learning.”

Goff said that means some of the breaks scheduled, like a full week for Thanksgiving, will now include a couple of virtual learning days to start the week before the actual break begins.

Recouping several others, like Feb. 15, would mean the school would dismiss, “only one or two days later than we would have,” said Goff. “Teachers and everybody will still be out before Memorial Day.

Goff said some schools are making up days on selected Saturdays but he was not for that idea.

The district did not have to get approval of the plan of its personnel policy committee, but administrators did so anyway and they are in favor of the revised calendar, Goff said.