New Principal Picks a New Pass System


With every new school year, additions are made in the name of safety and convenience for both students and teachers. This year, that new addition comes in the form of Smart Pass.

Smart pass is our school’s new way to distribute and use hall passes digitally.

An obvious advantage of this system is that students do not have to carry hall passes when in their classroom building. It sounds small but it is nice not having to worry about having a hall pass on small trips to the water fountain or to the bathroom.

“Physical passes often got lost or left around campus. The digital option allows better management of our resources,” journalism teacher Shari Chumley said. 

But the most important thing, and what drove our new head principal, Dr. Melissa Thomas, to implement smart pass, is safety. 

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“When I first got announced that I was coming to Tupelo High School to serve as the principal, I got an opportunity to spend time on campus at the end of last year…about 10 minutes into class, I noticed that we had a lot of kids and a lot of traction between buildings, outside in the courtyard. They had legitimate reasons of why they were out there. But it concerned me that if we had any emergency crisis, which I hope we never have, but if we did, how could I keep these kids safe?” Dr. Thomas said.

Smart pass allows our teachers and our security officers to keep track of where students are when they have a pass activated.

In the event of a lockdown smart pass allows security to quickly locate where students are and move them to a safe location, this can also apply to cases where there is a fire or a bomb threat.

“Identifying which students are in your hallways and away from a teacher is vital during any emergency situation like a fire or building intruder,” from Smart Pass’s official website.

Another reason for its implementation was order, as that had become a priority coming out of the pandemic.

“During the pandemic, everybody got a little relaxed. In terms of the expectations. Kids were leaving classes gone for 15-20-30 minutes showing back up toward the end of the class, kids were texting each other all over the school, hey, let’s leave and go to the bathroom. I mean, there was some craziness going on, right? So we had, as we come out of the pandemic, now, we really have an obligation to put some order to things so that things are safe,” Dr. Picou said.

Smart pass is not free of problems though, a key concern with Smart Pass is time, or rather its limits on time. Passes can only be up to five minutes long.

In most cases, this is not a problem at all, 5 minutes is usually enough time for students to finish their business and get back to class, especially If the student is staying within the confines of their class building, but there are key exceptions.

Trips from building to building take a lot of time and security are automatically notified when the pass runs out. But luckily there is a focus on this problem.

“I am in the process of researching how to give teachers the ability to adjust the time, if you need more time in the restroom, or if your walk is longer to the nurse’s office or something to that nature.” Dr. Thomas said.

The way the system works is any student can request a hall pass from their teacher on the smart pass website to wherever they need to go. From there the teacher can decide to accept or decline the pass request. Teachers also have the option to distribute specific passes to their students without a request.

Some students believe that there are better methods to distribute hall passes, and Smart Pass was not the only digital hall pass distributor to be tested over the summer.

“I sat through, this summer, about six demos of digital hall pass systems to see what would work best for our campus. To see what would work best for our campus.” Dr. Thomas said. 

When trying to find an alternative to the traditional hall pass system Dr. Thomas had to take into account the size of our campus compared to other schools, including local community colleges.

“I looked at some of the community colleges as well, because for a lot of the community colleges in the state, our high school is equivalent in size.” Dr. Thomas said

What would ultimately make smart pass the choice was its ease of use compared to other alternatives.

Smart Pass has only been implemented for a few weeks but it is already making an impact this school year and is expected to have an impact for a while.

“We expect it to be something long-term.” Dr. Thomas said.