2015, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville, westervilleschools

Church, scouts build outdoor preschool classroom

Wednesday September 9, 2015 7:52 AM

When a dilapidated building next-door was torn down, members of the Church of the Messiah United Methodist constructed a colorful outdoor learning space for the church’s preschool.

Charity Monroe, director the Ourday Preschool at Messiah, had a vision of a space that was different from a park or a playground yet offered a very natural space adjacent to the church.

“It’s a new kind of space. I think it’s a neat and progressive space for Uptown Westerville,” she said. “The community feedback has been so positive. I’ve heard several adults say they wished they could go to preschool there.”

The vision of this new area includes uses for all groups of the church, including Sunday school, vacation bible school and adult meetings. Yet, the area is furthermore intended for all who visit the church and the Uptown area.

This winter, once church members tore down the old building on the land, they began to brainstorm ideas on what to do with the space.

It wasn’t quite big enough for a parking lot, Monroe recalled, and it was very close to Westerville Cleaners.

She originally got the idea for the outdoor classroom from a magazine article about natural outdoor play areas.

With collaboration from Ron Miller, a landscape designer and church member, they got to work over the summer on transforming the space.

“A lot of churches have playgrounds and outdoor spaces and so it was a really exciting opportunity to do something different,” said Miller.

He chose to put in a wide variety of grasses in the space, in order to educate kids about all the different species. Other plant used “were especially selected because they attract birds, butterflies and bees,” Miller said.

The space also includes a unique circular sandbox, arched entrance, dry creek bed and a small bridge.

The project held a special place in Miller’s heart, he said, because both of his sons — now 30 and 32 — attended Ourday preschool.

Additionally, three Boy Scouts from the church-sponsored Troop 560 completed their Eagle Scout projects by helping build the outdoor classroom.

“They were looking for an Eagle Scout project and this just seemed like the perfect fit,” Monroe said. “They really stepped up and created something beautiful.”

With the help of local business’ donations, the boys were able to build six planter boxes, six picnic tables and six log benches.

The Cellar Lumber Company at 137 E. College Ave. contributed about $1,000 worth of the cedar lumber for the planter boxes and Almendinger Sawmill at 5501 Caswell Road in Johnstown, helped with the log benches.

“It was really rewarding to help these outstanding young men,” Miller said. “Each project was tricky but they did a perfect job.”

The next-door business, Westerville Cleaners at 40 W Main St., provided the water source to keep the outdoor classroom green throughout the installation and ongoing seasons.

“Thank you to the Church of Messiah leaders who embraced the idea from the first presentation last winter,” said Monroe.

“The outdoor classroom is now ready to welcome us all to a lovely addition to Church of Messiah. Please visit and enjoy the outdoor space.”

At the preschool fall orientation in late August, Monroe said that almost all of the 400 parents complimented the new space.

The Church of the Messiah will have an open house to celebrate the space from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.

For the future, Monroe said she hopes to add bird feeders, butterfly houses, and other things to help enhance the natural habitat.

http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/westerville/news/2015/09/08/church-scouts-build-outdoor-preschool-classroom.html

2015, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville, westervilleschools

Intimate Westerville South cast is ‘Leaving Iowa’

Wednesday September 9, 2015 7:51 AM

Westerville South High School kicks off its 2015-16 theater season with the family comedy Leaving Iowa.

The show written to be “realistic and relatable” will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20 at the high school, 303 S. Otterbein Ave.

The play stars an intimate six-student cast and the show will also be performed at a state conference in March.

For this reason, the show is completely student designed under the guidance of Derrick McPeak, technical director.

The story centers around Don Browning, a writer who returns home and decides to finally take his father’s ashes to his childhood home. But, when Don discovers his childhood home is now a grocery store, he begins traveling across Iowa in search of a proper resting place.

“It’s got a ton of heart but it’s wrapped up in a great comedy,” said South’s theater director Matt Wolfe. “It’s challenging for students because it’s a show where the actors’ chemistry makes a big difference.”

Senior James Hagerman who plays Don Browning, said that it feels very natural to play this particular character.

“There are moments where I can attribute my own experiences to the show,” he said. “It’s a very relatable and realistic play.”

Playing a family wasn’t too difficult for the cast, since they were already such good friends, said assistant director, senior Elise Wesley.

“It’s a show about a family and we are already like a family since we’ve been in the theater program so long,” she said.

The show was cast in the spring so students could work on their lines over the summer and start building the set the week before school started.

In the show, Nic Hayman, senior, plays 12 different characters. He described how that experience has made him a better actor.

“I want all of my characters to be distinct so I’ve had to learn new voices and new mannerisms,” he said. “I want people to think, ‘Wow this is a big cast,’ when it’s actually just the six of us.”

With so many characters to play, Hayman has to do some quick costume changes backstage.

“I have less than a minute to change and I still have my microphone on so I can deliver my lines,” he said.

Wolfe said it’s a good show for the back-to-school season since it’s all about relationships.

“We’re not asking audiences to sit through a three-hour history play,” said Wolfe. “It’s the type of show where at one point, you’ll say ‘Oh, that’s me,’ or ‘My dad does that too.’ “

Tickets are $6, can be purchased at the door and the show will be at Westerville South High School at 303 S. Otterbein Ave.

http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/westerville/news/2015/09/08/intimate-westerville-south-cast-is-leaving-iowa.html

2015, johnstown, johnstownindependent, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Cabin, restored trailer to be unveiled during Autumn Gathering

Sunday September 6, 2015 8:56 PM

Timber Tunes, a consignment and antiques store at 9862 Johnstown-Utica Road, will unveil has two new display areas in its rear courtyard when its hosts its inaugural Autumn Gathering event Friday and Saturday, Sept. 11-12.

The most noticeable addition is a restored 1964 Air-stream trailer.

Shop owners, Linda and Karl Harris bought the trailer from a Powell resident who was looking to sell it for scrap metal.

“We have always loved Airstreams and own one ourselves,” Mrs. Harris said. “We are proud ‘tin can tourists’ and joke that we have aluminum in our veins.”

Mr. Harris worked for two years to restore the trailer, even replacing the soggy, rotten floor.

The renovated Airstream now houses vintage and retro items at Timber Tunes.

In addition to the Airstream is Karl’s Cabin.

Harris’ husband spent his evenings this past year building a small cabin in the rear courtyard.

“He built it from scratch and loved every minute of the process,” Harris said.

The building was opened to the public less than a month ago and Harris said only about a dozen people have seen it.

“It’s become a great display for the items Karl has finished creating,” she said.

“However, I’m trying really hard not to take over his new space.

“When he was building it, he threatened not to put outlets inside so I couldn’t take it over.”

To celebrate these additions, Timber Tunes is hosting an Autumn Gathering from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

There will be wool spinning demonstrations and Karl will show children how to shell corn.

“If people come to the Autumn Gathering, they are in for a treat,” Mrs. Harris said.

“There will be fun outdoor activities, additional vendors, fall decor items and lots of antiques, vintage and handcrafted items.”

The Dashing Diner food truck will be serving food Friday.

“I think it will be a great day, not just for us but for all Licking County barns and antique shops,” she said.

Along with the two new spaces, the rear courtyard also features a rustic outhouse the couple restored when the shop first opened in 1994.

Mrs. Harris said the business’ name comes from her husband’s signature handmade folk art music boxes.

Mr. Harris said the biggest draw for people into the shop is the eclectic mix of items they offer.

“You’ve got a little bit of this and a little of that,” he said.

The shop has Christmas items, Longaberger baskets, handmade cutting boards, jewelry, old license plates and soaps handmade by their 10-year-old grandson.

Harris said she plans to continue to offer a variety of items and is looking forward to the upcoming holiday season.

“It fills our cup when someone comes in and finds the perfect gift,” she said.

http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/johnstown/news/2015/09/03/timber-tunes-cabin-restored-trailer-to-be-unveiled-during-autumn-gathering.html

2015, johnstown, johnstownindependent, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Johnstown participating in Westerville’s Cops & Kids Day

Sunday September 6, 2015 8:53 PM

The Johnstown Police Department will be sharing officers’ expertise with kids from throughout Central Ohio atWesterville’s Cops & Kids Day Sept. 13.
From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Hoff Woods Park, 556 McCorkle Blvd. in Westerville, children will have the opportunity to interact with law enforcement officers while learning about the technology and equipment they use.
There will be cruisers, large tactical vehicles, helicopters, motorcycles and SWAT vehicles on site.
Most police departments allow children inside their vehicles to show off the vehicles’ features.
Kids can participate in games such as “Dunk-a-Cop”, police-related scenarios and other activities.
The first 1,000 children will receive a free Cops & Kids Day giveaway item.
When kids get tired of playing on the inflatable amusements, they can hop inside a police cruiser or learn about underwater dive teams or canine units, said Josh Boudinot, a Johnstown Police lieutenant.
“We have been going to it since it started,” Boudinot said of Cops & Kids Day.
“It’s a good opportunity to to meet people in a fantastic atmosphere,” he said.
“It makes us approachable and it’s just fun.”
Johnstown Police officers plan to bring a patrol car and one or two officers.
Pierre La Rose, a crime prevention specialist with the Westerville Police, said Johnstown has attended the event for the past six years.
“In previous years, Johnstown has brought their canine officers and partners,” La Rose said.
“The event is designed to be entertaining for all involved, but also promote positive interaction between the law enforcement community and those we serve.”
Area organizations will also be present during the event, providing various child safety materials and promotional items.
Admission and refreshments are free.
“I don’t know how many hot dogs they must go through,” Boudinot said before laughing.
Additional information about Cops & Kids Day in Westerville can be obtained by sending email to La Rose at pierre.larose@westerville.org; or by calling 614-901-6893.
2015, johnstown, johnstownindependent, johnstownvillage, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

School district wants lower water-sewer fees from village

Sunday September 6, 2015 8:51 PM

Members of the Johnstown-Monroe Local School District Board of Education and Johnstown Village Council members were at odds over water and sewer fees at the regularly scheduled Village Council meeting Tuesday evening, Sept. 1.
The lively discussion centered around water and sewer tap fees and capacity charges relative to the school building construction project.
The Johnstown-Monroe Oversight Committee presented Village Council with a proposal that the district’s current proposed water and sewer capacity and tap fees be reduced by 85 percent.
The district representatives’ Powerpoint presentation showed the current proposed tap and capacity fees were far beyond the usual average rate of anywhere from $0 to $150,000, according to a survey of 177 buildings from theOhio Schools Facility Commission.
The school district explained to the village council that the project is 29 percent funded by the state and they would, essentially, be replacing water fixtures, not adding new fixtures.
Johnstown Superintendent Dale Dickson stated the district currently pays $23,315 in water/sewer usage fees.
Discussions about the water and sewer tap fees and capacity charges began in January, according to Tim Swauger, vice president of the Johnstown School Board.
In the middle of the district’s presentation, Johnstown Village Manager Jim Lenner said the school district was using incorrect numbers when calculating the capacity and tap fees.
However, even with the revised dollar figures, the district representatives stood by their request to have an 85-percent reduction of the total figure.
“It’s still above our budget, but we’re trying to compromise,” Swauger said.
“We’d love for that number to be zero. We need to figure out this number so we can finalize our budget and move forward.”
School Board President Ruth Ann Booher emphasized the district and village have a symbiotic relationship and district officials requested a decision as soon as possible.
“I pray you will consider this issue as soon as possible,” Booher said.
“Every day we do not put a shovel to the ground, we hear about it in the school district,” she said.
“We will do whatever it takes to work with you.”
Johnstown Mayor Sean Staneart said, legally, the council could not make any decision at that moment because a formal ordinance had not been submitted.
“Right now our hands are tied, but we are not trying to hold up your construction,” Staneart said.
“We want openness, not accusations,” he said.
Lenner said he wished there was a way to just give away the services.
“But whatever we give away, will have to be made up elsewhere,” he said.
“We could potentially have to increase resident’s water and sewer rates if we give away too much right now.”
Lenner emphasized it is a huge decision with big impacts that will not be taken lightly.
Staneart asserted the council is supportive of the school district, but it has an obligation to village residents.
“If we decide to do some kind of waiver for the district, the residents might have to bear some of that cost,” Staneart said.
“We have to be stewards of the residents’ money and we take that seriously,” he said.
“We want to give the district as much as we can, but we need to respect our residents.”
Village Council President Sharon Hendren said she wants what is best for the children, but someone has to pay for the schools.
“We all want this school, but somewhere we have to come up with the money,” she said.
Before discussions began, resident Marvin Block stated that 20 to 25 years ago the community used to be split
“I don’t want to see that happen again,” Block.
“We all represent the village and want what’s best,” he said. “I beg you to keep the peace and listen to everyone with an open mind.”
A special Johnstown Village Council meeting to continue discussions has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in council chambers, 599 South Main St.
The next regular Village Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 15.
2015, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville, westervilleschools

Kile up for new challenge at Early Learning Center

Teachers have fresh faces in their classrooms and the Westerville City School District’s Early Learning Center also has a fresh, yet familiar, face.
Suzanne Kile is the center’s new director.
She started the job in July following the resignation of former director Ann Lockett, who left to pursue another professional opportunity.
Kile began her career as an elementary and middle school teacher and principal in Michigan.
She said she moved to Westerville in 2001 where she has been a teacher, principal of McVay Elementary, principal of Genoa Middle School, director of community relations and special education coordinator.
“Every job I’ve been in, I’ve thought, ‘I love this. This is where I’m going to stay forever,’ ” she said.
So far, she said she is loving her new position.
“I love having that direct interaction with the kids and their families. Being in the district for so long, I know a lot of these families and it’s nice getting to know new families,” she said.
Kile said she’ excited about her new assignment and is enjoying getting to know the pupils and their parents at the Early Learning Center.
“I love being part of the team that gets to welcome our families to Westerville schools,” she said. “During my years in the district, I have had the opportunity to work with most of the preschool staff, and they are one of the factors that drew me to the role.”
She said it’s important to keep up to date with the most recent research and literature concerning early childhood development and she is open to making changes to improve the program.
“Our teachers are phenomenal and I want to support them however I can and make sure they stay up to date on the most recent research findings,” she said.
The Early Learning Center houses 11 classrooms, holding 300 students, in the morning and afternoon, providing students with disabilities the opportunity to learn alongside non-disabled peers.
Kile said the district serves students as young as 3 and that a typical classroom is comprised of eight non-disabled students and eight disabled students.
Unlike in other districts, preschool students are taught at a central location — the Early Learning Center at 936 Eastwind Drive.
“Having everyone in one location allows us to learn from one another. Plus, it’s a really amazing space. A lot of thought went into the design of the space,” she said.
The former office building was renovated in the summer of 2013 for $588,000 to become home for the center and the district’s administrative offices.
Superintendent John Kellogg said Kile is plenty qualified for the new position.
“With 24 years experience in education, the last 14 of which have been in Westerville City Schools, Suzanne possesses the balance of leadership and academic skills required for this position,” said Kellogg, announcing the appointment.
“Her involvement and familiarity with the Westerville-area community are added benefits that will be valuable to the Preschool Program as well,” he said.
“I can’t say how much I’ve enjoyed the warm welcome from the staff and community,” Kile said. “Westerville has such strong connections and everyone really cares about each other.”
2015, august, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Teachers plead for ‘fair contract’

Wednesday August 26, 2015 12:16 PM

More than 300 teachers came to the regular meeting of the Westerville school board Monday, Aug. 24 to ask for a fair contract.

In the public comments section toward the meeting’s end, one by one, teachers approached the podium. Each gave their name, position, years taught in district, years lived in the district, whether they have children in the district and then said, “I care about my students and deserve a fair contract.”

The teachers all wore red shirts and black pants. Walking into the building, volunteers distributed to them name tags, red “respect” signs and cards with a written script for their speeches at the podium.

Before the start of the 6 p.m. meeting, the crowd of teachers overflowed the meeting room at the district’s Early Learning Center, 936 Eastwind Drive, winding in a line out the door, into the hallway and down the stairs.

The school board and the union representing district teachers, the Westerville Education Association, are in negotiations for a new contract, said Greg Viebranz, executive director of communications and technology for Westerville City Schools.

Viebranz said due to collective bargaining protocol, he is not at liberty to release details of specific items being negotiated.

“What I can tell you, however, is that the board’s primary goal has been and continues to be to finalize a new contract with the WEA,” he said. “Both sides remain at the table and progress toward a successor contract continues to be made.”

The teachers’ existing three-year contract expires Monday, Aug. 31. Negotiations on a successor contract began June 9.

Viebranz said two days were set aside this week to continue the collective bargaining process.

Kyle King, a history teacher at Westerville Central High School, said WEA leaders asked teachers to come to the school board meeting to ask for a fair contract.

“I care about the education and the kids deserve the best quality education that we can provide,” he said.

The meeting ended at 8:40 p.m.; 197 people signed up to speak, though not all of them actually addressed the board.

In other action at Monday’s board meeting:

* The board passed a resolution publicly opposing Ohio House Bill 70, also known as the Youngstown Plan.

Board member Rick Vilardo read the resolution aloud and called it a very important issue.

Board member Nancy Nestor-Baker called the bill a “an appalling and extreme assault on local schools.”

“When I first saw this I thought it was a joke. It entirely turns over the school’s authority to the state. What happens in Youngstown today could happen to any of us tomorrow,” she said and received applause from the audience.

Vilardo agreed it’s a “very disconcerting piece of legislation” and asked community members to write letters and make phone calls to express their views.

* 17 students, from all three Westerville high schools, were recognized for participating in the district’s summer graduation ceremony.

* The board recognized Frances Quast, administrative assistant in the treasurer’s office, who recently died after battling cancer the last year and a half.

“She was a tremendous lady. She was very special in our department,” said district Treasurer Bart Griffith.

“Frances was wonderful. I was really touched by her in so many ways. It was hard to say goodbye,” said Nestor- Baker.

A celebration of life service for Quast is planned for 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 28, at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, 100 E. Schrock Road.

The next regular meeting of the school board is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Early Learning Center.

http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/westerville/news/2015/08/25/teachers-plead-for-fair-contract.html 

2015, august, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Students join Honor Flight work with letters to vets

Wednesday August 26, 2015 12:10 PM

Westerville students are taking the time to show how much they value the service of local military veterans.

Working with Honor Flight Columbus, Westerville students and the general public are invited to write letters of gratitude to local veterans.

The Honor Flight Columbus program flies senior veterans from World War II and the Korean War to Washington, D.C., for them to see the national monuments built in their honor.

The Westerville community for several years now has sponsored its own flight of veterans.

During the trip, each veteran receives a packet of thank you letters from Westerville students, community members and even local dignitaries.

The first few flights of Honor Flight Columbus were smaller and the Westerville community raised between $13,000 and $15,000 for the flights.

“When we began flying charter flights and the cost rose significantly, the committee rose to the challenge. The sponsorship fee of $50,000 didn’t stop them,” said Bobbi Richards, a director emeritus of Honor Flight Columbus. “What generous, selfless people sit on this committee. Without the funding, the trips would not have happened; the veterans would not have flown.”

She described the committee as a cross section of the citizens of Westerville and noted how each member lays aside their personal egos to work as one.

“It is a model that other cities could, and should, follow to encourage participation of all citizens in major projects,” she said.

To date Honor Flight Columbus has honored almost 4,000 veterans through the trips and close to 200 of them have been from Westerville.

“Having students connect with the veterans is very important, on both sides. It means a lot to the veterans because they haven’t been forgotten and it is a lesson in service and sacrifice for the students,” Richards said.

The program is free of charge to the veterans and is described as a way to thank veterans for their service to the country.

This is the seventh year that the Westerville community has sponsored Honor Flights.

The World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C., in May 2004 and the Korean War Memorial was dedicated in July 1995.

Honor Flight works to make sure men and women who served in those wars have a chance to view the memorials.

Lisa Reschke, a clerk at Cherrington Elementary School, is leading the collection of student letters in Westerville.

She said that Genoa Middle School usually has the highest level of participation, but it varies from year to year.

The program is even being offered to those not old enough to write; they are welcome to draw pictures.

Each year a teacher and student from each of the three high schools go on the trip as guardians for the veterans.

Superintendent John Kellogg has made the flight as a guardian as well.

For letters to reach those veterans who are traveling to Washington, D.C., in September, letters must be sent to Lisa Reschke at Cherrington, 522 Cherrington Road, Westerville, Ohio 43081, before Sept. 9.

The Westerville community also is invited to welcome home the returning veterans the evening of Sept. 19 at Port Columbus International Airport. The welcomers will gather in the southwest baggage claim area about 8:45 p.m.

http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/westerville/news/2015/08/25/students-join-honor-flight-work-with-letters-to-vets.html

2015, august, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Four will seek two seats on school board

With Jim Burgess tossing his hat into the ring, four candidates now will vie for two seats up for election this fall on the Westerville school board.
In addition to Burgess, Gerrie Cotter, Greg Lawson and incumbent appointee Richard Bird last week submitted their nominating petitions to the Franklin County Board of Elections.
Burgess, 49, a candidate for the board in 2013, applied for appointment to the vacancy on the school board created when longtime member Cindy Crowe died in 2014.
Bird instead was appointed to that vacancy by the board’s four other members and now seeks his first election to a full four-year term.
The other incumbent, board member Carol French, is not seeking re-election.
“We really need board members who will stand up and put the quality of our students’ education first,” said Burgess, a manager at Ashland.
Burgess is director of the Westerville Tea Party. He criticized the school board’s decision to enact all-day kindergarten this fall.
“The structure of it is quite frankly ridiculous. We should have all-day kindergarten but it shouldn’t cost that much to parents,” he said. “It creates inequalities among our students. They should have kept it as half-day or make all-day kindergarten available to everyone.”
The current cost of all-day kindergarten is $300 a month per student.
Burgess finished fourth in a field of six candidates that sought three available seats in 2013. Nancy Nestor-Baker, Tracy Davidson and Rick Vilardo won those three seats.
Burgess, his wife and three children have lived in the district for 11 years. His oldest son is a junior at Westerville North, while his other children do not attend Westerville public schools. He is involved with the band boosters at North, where his son is a member of the marching band.
Lawson said that he cares about similar issues as Burgess but has a different approach and will run a separate campaign.
“I respect what he has done and is planning. I like Jim a lot and think he’s a good guy,” he said.
Lawson said that he wants to make sure the district gets the most out of every dollar.
“We know that levies will eventually come up and I want to look the taxpayers in the eyes and tell them, ‘If we didn’t need this then I wouldn’t be asking.’ If I believe a levy is necessary to keep our standards where they are currently, then we will ask for a levy.”
He said he wants to work on motivating students and helping them get excited about learning.
Lawson said he is eager to participate in future candidate forums or debates and said he will be attending North’s home football games with his family as well as going door-to-door to reach out to the community.
Bird said his campaign is going well and has many upcoming activities planned.
“I’ve been working with my campaign manager to do a lot of organizing. We’ve already got some meet-and-greets planned and we hope to soon have T-shirts at the football games,” he said. “I’m pretty pumped up.”
Cotter said that her campaign also is going well and she’s been hearing a lot of positive feedback from the community.
She attended the Genoa Township National Night Out event Aug. 4 and was able to speak to a lot of residents.
“It was a very positive experience. It was good to hear what people thought of the district as well as what they thought about my campaign,” she said.
Cotter said she plans on going to sporting and community events in the district this fall and “getting out as much as possible so I can hear residents’ feedback.”
Read previous ThisWeek Westerville coverage on the board race at http://tiny.cc/9e6r1x. 

2015, august, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Paying for meals just got a touch faster

http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/westerville/news/2015/08/18/paying-for-meals-just-got-a-touch-faster.html 

Wednesday August 19, 2015 12:59 PM

Buying lunch will be a little simpler for some students this school year.

The Westerville City School District Food Service Department is phasing in biometric finger scanning, starting with Blendon Middle, Longfellow Elementary and Pointview Elementary schools.

Instead of swiping their ID card to pay for lunch, students now will use a fingerprint to access their meal accounts.

The new system is intended to provide security for student meal accounts, eliminate clerical errors, give students more time to eat lunch and offer them an easy way to identify themselves when paying for their meals in the cafeteria.

The new system cost the district $3,731 for the three buildings.

At first, the fingerprint system will be used by 1,100 students. Once the district is confident the system is working well with its point-of-sale software, it will be implemented at the remaining buildings this school year.

While lunch prices were raised 10 cents for the 2015-16 school year, school officials said it was not related to the new fingerprint system.

Currently, middle school and high school students carry their ID cards and swipe them at the cashier station. At the elementary school level, teachers keep student IDs in the classroom and hand them out as needed.

“One of the benefits of the new system is the reduction of time spent to manage and maintain the lunch cards at the elementary level by teachers, secretaries and food-service staff, and at middle and high school the biometric scan takes a fraction of a second versus a student entering their ID number,” said Kari Dennis, manager of food services and purchasing.

“We are always evaluating ways to improve the student experience in our cafeterias.”

In an announcement about the new system, the district emphasized that fingerprints themselves will not be stored. Students will have their index fingers scanned as an identifier, but the image is then converted to a binary number that is encrypted and stored with the same security as other school records.

However, Matt Curtin, founder of Interhack Corp., a Columbus-based cybersecurity company, cautioned that nothing is unhackable.

“Even a system with perfect security can be broken if the hacker has the right information,” he said. “Putting something in binary form is no security at all. In fact, it would be impossible to store data without putting it in binary code first.”

Curtin said encrypting data is in theory good security, but it’s still possible to figure out the code used in the encryption.

“People are worried about biometrics and it raises a lot of eyebrows. Usually when people think of fingerprints, they think of being hauled off to jail, so they question the security of the system,” he said.

The district said the information will be deleted if a student is no longer enrolled or graduates, and the fingerprint images cannot be re-created or given to any agency.