ST. JOHN — The identification tags Lake Central High School students have been required to carry with them for several years will have an additional fashion accessory in the fall.
Principal Sean Begley told the School Board last week that the tags will include a colored strap so students can wear them in a way that is easily visible. Each grade level will have a different colored strap as an additional means for making sure the student is supposed to be in the building.
"Recent events made it critical to efficiently identify the students at the school," Begley said in reference to the number of school shootings that have occurred around the country.
He said Merrillville has used the wearable tags for about 15 years, and Lake Central students attend internships and classes at the career center where the same type of tags are required. In many cases, the students return to Lake Central still wearing the visible tags. He said other schools in the area also are considering such a move.
"If I can do something to make the school safer, I will do it. It's something we're kicked around for years. I've talked to a lot of parents, and a lot of parents, students and teachers have recommended we do it," Begley said.
The cost of the tags already is included in the miscellaneous student fees, and the colored strap will be, too. Begley said the decision on the colors hasn't been made.
In other business, the board approved applying for a $935,400 loan from the state's common school fund educational technology program. The amount is the maximum the school qualifies for, and Business Services Director Rob James said the money will be used to buy Chromebooks and iPads for classrooms.
The school has applied for the funds for the last several years. The money is available in the spring and fall at a 1 percent interest rate and must be paid back over five years. James said the district has been doing this long enough that, as one loan is paid off, a new one is approved, keeping the tax rate the same.
He said some of the Chromebooks previously bought with the funds are wearing out and will be replaced if the new loan is approved. None of the school district's applications have been rejected in the past.
"We believe the district should make every effort to bring additional dollars into our district to upgrade the technology in our buildings," James said, explaining the money also has been used for white boards and other technology for classrooms.