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From the classroom: Printing error on student IDs creates headaches; LPS looks to 'green' school buses

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Student ID white background

Lincoln Public Schools recently discovered issues with student IDs.

K-12 education reporter

Zach Hammack, a 2018 UNL graduate, has always called Lincoln home. He previously worked as a copy editor at the Journal Star and was a reporting intern in 2017. Now, he covers students, teachers and schools as the newspaper’s K-12 reporter.

Over the past two weeks, local high school students have smiled for the camera and picked up the ID cards that will dangle from their lanyards this fall.

But because of an unusual printing error, some students will have to swap out their cards for new ones.

Lincoln Public Schools recently discovered issues with the bar codes on IDs printed by Lifetouch, the photography vendor the district contracts with. There are bar codes on both the front and back of cards, which are used for different purposes, such as scanning in for attendance or checking out at lunch.

The issues varied by building but affected all seven high schools to some extent, said Director of Communications Mindy Burbach.

In some cases the bar codes weren't scannable, including at Lincoln High, which will have to replace all of its IDs. The same issue occurred at Southwest — which will have to reprint 1,200 cards — and at Northwest, which will also replace some of its cards, Burbach said.

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At the four other high schools, the bar codes were on the wrong side but the error won't require a reprint. Instead, schools will either update their computer systems or instruct students which side to scan, Burbach said.

Students pick up their IDs during high school readiness days, where they can have their picture taken, get a parking pass, go over their schedule and more.

Lifetouch is working to print the corrected IDs and will send them to schools, where they'll be distributed to students either this week or next. The first day of school is Monday for freshmen and Tuesday for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

'Green' school buses

Electric school buses could soon be hitting Lincoln streets, but it may take a bit of luck for it to happen.

LPS recently applied for a lottery grant with the Environmental Protection Agency that would offer $375,000 in rebates for three zero-emission electric buses.

Under the grant proposal, LPS would have to trade in three of its older buses and match $30,000 for charging stations.

The $1 trillion federal infrastructure package signed into law earlier this year set aside $5 billion for schools to purchase green buses.

The district worked with Colorado/West and Nebraska Central Bus Sales & Service to apply for the Clean Bus Rebates Program grant, which will be awarded through a lottery process.

"It's a draw of the hat," said Director of Transportation Ryan Robley.

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If LPS misses out this year, it can still apply again for the next five years if the district wishes, Robley said.

This would be LPS' first foray into electric school buses. The district's 165-vehicle fleet is powered by diesel or gasoline.

StarTran already has 10 electric buses and 30 that use alternative fuel, with plans to completely go green by 2040.

"Everything is kind of turning that way," Robley said. "For me and the board, it was just a really great opportunity to dip our toes in the water with this grant and see how it operates."

Right now, however, the bigger concern it seems is not how buses are powered but if there's enough people to drive them.

As of this week, LPS is still looking to hire about 20 drivers to cover the roughly 130 routes for this school year. Last year, about 3,350 students — 45% of them special-education students — took the bus.

The district has already consolidated its number of routes from 156 to about 130 amid a shortage of drivers and paraprofessionals that led to lengthy delays for students last year.

LPS hopes to build back to about 150 routes if it can hire enough drivers in the months ahead, but it appears the shortage isn't going away anytime soon.

By the numbers

11: The margin of votes in the Palmyra school district bond election, which got the green light Tuesday. The $22 million bond will pay for additions and renovations at Bennet Elementary School and Palmyra Junior-Senior High School.

17: The number of minutes that will be added to the school day at Robinson Elementary School because of construction delays. The new school opens Aug. 29.

31: Roughly how many minutes Tuesday's LPS board meeting lasted, easily the quickest of the year. A stark difference to last summer.

Delayed opening will extend school day by 17 minutes at new Lincoln elementary school
Mail-in election to expand schools in Bennet, Palmyra decided by 11 votes
Watch now: LPS officials tout the high school of the future on tour of Lincoln Northwest

Contact the writer at zhammack@journalstar.com or 402-473-7225.

On Twitter @HammackLJS

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K-12 education reporter

Zach Hammack, a 2018 UNL graduate, has always called Lincoln home. He previously worked as a copy editor at the Journal Star and was a reporting intern in 2017. Now, he covers students, teachers and schools as the newspaper’s K-12 reporter.

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