The Stroudsburg Area School District will soon begin tracking students’ movements through high school hallways using a service called SmartPass.
According to Jeffrey Sodl, principal of Stroudsburg High School, a new digital pass would replace the old method of having students raise their hands to ask permission to use the restroom, interrupting the teacher who would then have to stop in the middle of his lesson and sign a manual pass.
“We’re really not doing anything different than we’ve ever done, other than making it more efficient by going paperless and making it digital,” Sodl explained. “That’s really the only change and we’re actually giving kids more opportunities to go to the toilet than we’ve had in the past 15 years.”
Sodl described that the current process involves a cardstock pass with 60 blocks that is given to each student, each 45-day marking period. Students are allowed to use these 60 opportunity blocks to use the bathroom, go to their locker, have a drink at the fountain, or see the nurse, etc. The new digital pass system will be configured to allow twice-daily use.
“We’ve never had an issue or complaint about how many times someone has to use the pass,” Sodl said. “Children usually go to the bathroom when they go from class to class, or at lunchtime or physical education. There is never a time when a child is denied the access to toilets or in case of emergency.”
Sodl said the motivation behind SmartPass is child safety, giving the school a tool to monitor things like bullying. The school will be able to monitor students who have conflicts and may make requests at the same time or use the same toilet locations.
“Another example, let’s say we know there’s a riff between five students, we wouldn’t want all of those same students in the hallways at the same time,” Superintendent Cosmas Curry said. “We can put controls in place to monitor and alert when they are all in the lobby at the same time. This can help reduce the risk of problems. Safety, efficiency and a transparent process.”
It also allows the school to limit the number of students in the hallways at the same time.
“For example, if we set the number of children in the hallways to 10 at any given time, if an 11th child enters a request, teachers can see that and wait to approve until one of the 10 scans come back,” Sodl said. .
According to Sodl, the new system may also be a useful tool that could possibly show a correlation, if any, between a student struggling with a particular class and constant requests to be excused during that particular class. The school can monitor students who may have conflicts by noting who makes requests to leave class at recurring times or who uses the same toilet locations.
“I know the kids won’t have a problem with it,” Sodl said. “It’s faster for them and they don’t have to worry about losing their card stock and having to replace it. It’s a quick and seamless process for students and teachers alike.”
SmartPass will already be integrated into the student’s Chromebook when they receive it for quick and easy access on the first day of school. Sodl said teachers will receive training and students will watch a short video on how it works during their first class period.
“There will be a learning curve, but we will all work through it together.” He said. “I think it’s going to be a good thing,
“I think it will solve a lot of problems and reassure a lot of parents by allowing us to monitor the hallways, manage the building and make everyone safer. It’s our number one priority.”
The SmartPass system has the ability to increase student accountability and safety. For example, students choose the toilets they will use closest to their class, reducing the number of group gatherings for inappropriate activities like vaping.
The digital pass helps manage room traffic by allowing teachers to see all active passes, including where students are coming from and going to or report students traveling without a pass.
SmartPass cites that all of this increases students’ academic learning time by deterring excessive silences. In an emergency like a lockdown, SmartPass allows students in transit to report their new location if they join another teacher’s class to find safety. All of this would help administrators and first responders with a dashboard to display key metrics and analytics for better school situational awareness.
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Curry said the new SmartPass app is just a new digital system replacing the old handwritten system. Rather than raise their hand and ask for permission to use the bathroom, students will ask permission through the Chromebook in front of them. This notifies the teacher to respond and approve. The app now records when the student left, where they left, and when they returned.
“What it can say is that a student leaves math class every day, or maybe he’s gone for 12 or 15 minutes when he’s supposed to go to the nearest bathroom. close to the classroom rather than the bathroom at the opposite end of the school,” Curry continued. “The other element can be if there has been God forbid, a bomb threat or an armed intruder and a student is not in their class…that student can communicate where they are and s ‘he agree.
“That’s such an important part of this SmartPass – security.” said Curry.
Curry wants everyone to know that SmartPass is not intended to prevent children from going to the bathroom, having a drink or being uncomfortable.
“Whatever that comfort means to different genders with different needs that need privacy. This system just identifies where you are, when you leave, and when you return in more detail.”
Stroudsburg parents respond to SmartPass system
Social media posts were ignited by news of the new SmartPass system. Among the main concerns were “breach of privacy” rights.
Seneca Transue is the mother of a student from Stroudsburg, she said her problem is the lack of transparency on how it will be implemented this year.
“This policy limits children to 2 passes per day which can only be used if there are passes available in the system.” said Transue. “As a parent, I want to know that my child will be able to use the bathroom if and when she needs it without any repercussions if she has to go more than twice.”
With technology growing in Monroe County classrooms, parents are concerned about apps that may collect data and track student behaviors.
Michelle Grana is a concerned mother who has also spoken out against the new app. “I’m upset about the lack of privacy with data given to private companies and how their education is outsourced to tech companies. They literally follow underage students to use a natural environment in a private institution. and on.”
Grana said she refused to have her child “followed”. Grana pointed out that “monitoring a child can undermine it” and expressed concerns about devices being hacked and the names of students being published “along with their whereabouts…in custody battles without our knowledge.”
“A child’s sense of privacy is a crucial element of trust.” She says.