Sunday, September 16, 2007
Steamboat Springs Once the aim of schoolyard bullies, lunch money is disappearing in Steamboat Springs schools for an entirely different reason - the district is moving toward electronic payments for its students.
Steamboat Springs High School sophomore Austin Hinder said Friday that his lunch-line wait has been longer than usual recently as the bugs were worked out during the system's first week.
"I like (the idea). You only get so much time for lunch, but it seems like things are only getting slower as people are trying to figure out how to use it," he said.
Max Huppert, the district's new director of food services, said the goal of the system is to have kids spend more time relaxing and socializing at lunch than standing in checkout lines.
"It's basically a system to get the kids through the system faster because they will just tap some buttons instead of having to make change," he said. "Hopefully, all these three- to five-second transactions will help speed things up."
Each student in the district was assigned a four-digit code that cashiers type into the system at checkout. Huppert said when the system is fully functional, parents will be able to log in through the district's Web site to add money to student accounts and view student purchases. Currently, money can be added to accounts only at the school.
"This system was already in place when I started," Huppert said. "Now, we are rocking it at every location, and all my ladies are figuring it out pretty fast. It will only get quicker."
Huppert added that students who are enrolled in the district's free lunch program move through checkout with their four-digit code like everyone else.
"Just a little symbol pops up on the cashier's screen," he said. "There's no flashing light that tells everyone that they are a free-lunch kid."
On Friday, Hinder waited almost 10 minutes to pay for his lunch as classmates in front of him searched their wallets for a spare buck and emptied their pockets for loose change. When it was his turn to pay, the line didn't pick up any steam since the electronic cash register froze when his payment info was entered into the system.
Cashier Marcie Kincie said Hinder is just one of a handful of students who have used the electronic payment system.
"In the long run, it will quicken things up," she said. "We are learning it, and they are learning it. Lunch used to be done a lot quicker because there weren't as many kids, but we also had to do all the numbers in our head. We just had a box of money, and we had to figure everything out."
Senior Class President Taylor Miller-Fruetel said the new system has not proved to be popular among most students.
"I just deal with cash because they didn't really explain to us how the system works," she said. "It's also slightly an invasion of privacy. Most juniors and seniors go off campus for lunch anyway, but some of us have meetings during lunch. There are so many students at the high school now, and with the freshmen having to eat on campus, it's really difficult to get through the line."
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