North Little Rock School Board OKs Buying Screening Devices

A group temperature screening device that uses artificial intelligence was one of several orders approved Friday by the North Little Rock School Board as the district prepares for the return of students during the covid-19 pandemic.

The board unanimously approved four purchasing orders totaling about $430,000 that were related to getting the school district ready for the return of students.

Keith McGee, interim superintendent of the 8,000-student school district, said devices will be paid for by federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding given to the district by the Arkansas Department of Education.

"We haven't received the funding, but the state has given us the go-ahead to proceed with ordering," McGee said.

Brian Brown, chief financial officer for the school district, said it's important to place the orders now because he wants to make sure North Little Rock is at the front of the line.

"These are time-sensitive purchases," Brown said. "We believe all the things we are presenting here tonight will be purchased by a lot of schools. We would like to get our name in the hat early so we can get these prior to school starting."

The temperature screening devices included 30 infrared no-touch thermometers, 10 group infrared thermal cameras, 10 60-centimeter tablet thermal temperature stations and 10 110-centimeter tablet thermal temperature stations.

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Amanda Stuckey, supervisor of school nurses and a registered nurse, told the School Board that the purchase of the temperature screening devices is crucial. She said the devices will be used upon entry into the school building by the staff and students as part of the screening process.

"We decided on the group ones for the [middle and high] schools because there are more people coming in at one time, and we can't control them as much as we can the little ones," Stuckey said.

Brown said the temperature group screening thermal cameras will be set up on tripods in heavy traffic locations at the schools. Students will be able to walk by the camera and artificial intelligence inside the camera will detect if temperatures are within the acceptable range.

"If they have a fever, there is an audible sound," he said.

Brown said the thermal temperature stations can track the temperatures of one to two people at a time in each frame. He said the tablet can measure the temperature of students from 7 feet away and will flash with a red or green light with a tone depending on the result.

"It keeps someone from manning a manual thermometer and keeps traffic moving," Brown said.

Stuckey said the devices will send information to a nurse's cellphone, as well. She said the temperature cutoff will be 100 degrees.

"It's pretty fancy and quite easy for us to use instead of trying to take everyone's temperature by hand," she said.

Board member Rochelle Redus expressed concern about privacy issues when it came to the cameras. Stuckey said people monitoring the cameras will be trained to handle medical situations discreetly by quietly pulling a student aside, walking the student to the nurse and having an additional temperature check to make sure it's accurate.

Stuckey said she checked with schools in other states before making her recommendation on the cameras. She said one of the group cameras will arrive Monday, and it will be used by the school district's football and volleyball teams when they return to practice.

"That is going to kind of be our guinea pig," she said.

Stuckey said the school plans to have a screening point at every entry in the school district.

"The thermometers are just one thing. We will have to ask questions too," she told the School Board. "We haven't figured out all the details of that, but it will be the area of check-in when we go back to school."

Brown said the purchase of the Chromebooks will be districtwide for all schools, and they will be used to replace damaged, lost or stolen laptops that were sent to students during the school year.

Brown said the 85 Dell Latitude laptops will be used by the school district's special services department to provide services to students remotely during the covid-19 pandemic. Nurses, and occupational and physical therapists also can use the devices for telemedicine visits and equipment needs.

Brown said the Clorox Total 360 systems, which look like a vacuum cleaner on wheels, will have special chemicals approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to combat covid-19. The cleaners will give school officials the ability to spray desks, desktops and doorknobs.

School Board member Cindy Temple said the Clorox machine has a two-minute disinfection time, and it can wrap around objects so spraying wouldn't be intensive. She said sprayings would occur at night.