WICKLIFFE, Ohio — The Wickliffe City School District has installed a new contact tracing system using Bluetooth technology in order to track student, faculty and staff movements while on campus and enforce social distancing requirements, in an effort to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The private company behind the wearable device that will be used within Wickliffe City schools is New Jersey-based Volan Technology, which calls itself the "leader in AI-based safety and contact tracing software."
The program, called the Volan Positioning System (VPS), can deliver detailed reports and provide real-time 3D location positioning for thousands of people in a matter of seconds, according to the company.
Wickliffe City School District Superintendent Joseph Spiccia called VPS "a critical tool that will help protect the health and safety of students, staff and teachers while also maintaining personal privacy."
As of the program's launch on December 2, the city of Wickliffe with ZIP Code 44092 had recorded 774 of Ohio's total 430,093 coronavirus, according to the Ohio Coronavirus Dashboard.
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"If there are confirmed [COVID-19] cases in our district, we will know immediately which members of our school community had the most exposure to the infected people." Spiccia said. "This gives us the ability to contact those most at risk while also informing students, parents and faculty how much exposure each person has had."
Spiccia said the district was pleased to be partnering with Volan on what he called cutting edge technologies that help Wickliffe reopen its schools.
Volan Technology CEO Michael Bettua said that private contact tracing technology is the most effective way to protect school populations from outbreaks that could otherwise force district-wide closings.
"Volan Technology is proud to be playing a role in helping schools to reopen safely and responsibly, and to help parents and students feel confident as they navigate this new normal," Bettua said.
How it Works: Contact Tracing & Emergency Response
VPS uses a private Bluetooth network to record individual location within a building or campus down to the specific room that person is in, with both live and historical reports available.
When a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19, the wearable, encrypted technology allows school leaders to identify within seconds everyone that person has been in close contact with on campus over the past 30 days.
The Volan software ranks members of the school community who are at the highest risk of infection based on direct and indirect exposure and on the duration and frequency of proximity to the infected individual that exceeds the CDC’s latest guidelines for determining “close contact.”
Volan can also automate social distancing enforcement bingy detecting unsafe distances or groupings of individuals in real-time, and send violation alerts.
VPS is the only private location positioning and geofencing option available that provides both COVID tracing and emergency response capabilities, according to Volan.
That means of there is a fire, intruder, fight or medical emergency, a staff member can press a button on their fob and school authorities will know precisely where the incident occurred and the nature of the emergency.
The program first launched at Wickliffe High School on November 19, with a pilot group of 50 students and 50 staff who are currently attending school in person.
Wickliffe High School administrators were trained on the system and plan to distribute fobs/badges to all students when the rest of the students return to school in person, which is expected to be in January.
Faculty, Staff and Student Privacy Concerns
Volan Technology is a member of the Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC), and as such, the company said it consulted with top privacy experts to ensure every protection was in place.
The Volan Bluetooth mesh network relies on wearable fobs and beacons positioned throughout a school building or campus.
"There’s no GPS app on users’ phones, so as soon as they leave campus, location positioning is deactivated," a representative for the company said in a press release.
"Random ID numbers are assigned through an encrypted IOS app to which only administrators have access. All passwords and personal information are managed by the school which means Volan does not collect individual data or have any access to student or employee’s personal information."