Students Pilot Bluecards

Andover’s long wait for the one-card key system is nearing an end. The school hopes to distribute the “BlueCards” to every student before spring break, according to the Office of Risk Management and Administrative Services. The BlueCard will serve as an ID and library card and function as a debit card at campus locations, including the Ryley Roller, Central Services, the Art Store and the Harrison Ice Rink. Blue Key Heads have been piloting the BlueCard system on campus since December. Cindy Efinger, Director of Student Activities, said that the school selected Blue Key Heads to test the system “to make sure that the accounting system was working correctly.” Every Blue Key Head recieved a BlueCard loaded with $50 at the end of last term to test out at the Ryley Roller and other campus locations. According to Liz Fortino, Manager of the BlueCard and Contact Management Office, the next pilot group of the student body to receive BlueCards will be Student Council and cluster presidents. Select downtown vendors will soon accept BlueCard debit transactions too. CVS and the Andover Bookstore have agreed to adopt BlueCard technology, which involves purchasing a separate card reader. “Since we are such frequent customers downtown, the shop owners are willing to invest the money,” said School President Malin Adams ’09. The BlueCard system costs $150,000 in total, according to Maureen Nunez, Director of Risk Management and Administrative Services. “That is a lot of money but we see it as an investment that will pay off,” said Nunez. The BlueCard debit system operates from an online Blackboard account that is separate from PAnet. Students and parents will be able to access this account directly to add money to the BlueCard or check its balance. The BlueCard will have three distinct accounts: campus funds, bookstore funds that can only be used at the Andover Bookstore and an account for free spending called “BlueBucks,” valid anywhere the card is accepted. Fortino said, “‘Before the Blue Key Heads, the [BlueCard] system was live and faculty had cards, but they weren’t using them enough from the accounting point of view.” Thor Shannon ’09, a Blue Key Head, said, “The BlueCards are going to make things a lot easier especially once they are accepted downtown.” Fortino hopes that they will receive their BlueCards as early as next week, but said that “working out how to formulate passwords is part of what’s keeping the BlueCards from distribution to Student Council.” Eventually, BlueCards will also be keys to dorms, academic facilities and Borden Gym. However, making the locks on all dorms and academic buildings compatible with the Blue Cards will take time. “Keys aren’t going to happen for a couple of years. It’s a very expensive system, and they want to make sure that the BlueCards work,” said Cindy Efinger, Director of Student Activities. Adams said that BlueCards will be able to lock administrative buildings at night after the key system is implemented. This ability will “save PAPS a lot of time and effort, which they would otherwise spend locking all of those buildings every night,” said Adams. Nunez said that Andover might also use a handheld card reader with the BlueCard system, which will be able to track “who’s coming and leaving at dances.” “The most difficult aspect of this project is the back-office work—moving money, making sure that the hardware is properly set up,” said Nunez. Fortino said, “The big picture is that eventually, PA will have one card, like many college campuses. There will be card readers on vending machines, laundry machines and all of the dorms.” She continued, “The whole thing is a big experiment, but I’m confident that it will soon become a fabric of life.” Fortino said that the “best case scenario would be that the school would be completely on the BlueCard system two years from now, in 2011.” Student Council and the BlueCard Office expect to make an official announcement soon about the release of the BlueCards, said Adams.