Editorial: eHallpass Needs Improvement

Towards the end of the 2021-2022 school year, FCHS rolled out the usage of E-Hallpass, and so far, it has caused problems for some students.

E-Hallpass is an electronic system of passes used to send students where they need to go without requiring a teacher to write a pass. A student picks where they are leaving from and where they want to go, the teacher then approves the pass that appears on their computer dashboard, and the student leaves.

Many think that E-Hallpass was rolled out countywide, but according to principal Ben Nowak, FCPS gave each school the option to use or not to use E-Hallpass, and the decision was made at FCHS “​​in an effort to support teachers and help manage our hallways and campus.” Because E-Hallpass wasn’t rolled out countywide, the cost of E-Hallpass isn’t being paid for by the county; it is being paid for by each individual school that elected to use it.

According to Nowak, the price is about two dollars per student, and with nearly 2000 kids at FCHS, Falls Church is spending about $4000 on E-Hallpass.

In E-Hallpass, a bathroom’s capacity is determined by how many toilets are available in a particular bathroom. Additionally, the FC administration and security teams have decided to only allow 50 people out at one time. Because of this, when students go to find a bathroom on E-Hallpass, the one closest to them is often listed as “full.” As a result, some students then select a different bathroom further away from their classrooms in order to leave when they need to rather than waiting for the closest bathroom to open, but they then go to the one close to them anyway. This widespread practice means that E-Hallpass isn’t accurately tracking all students when they leave the classroom.

Not only is it hard to even find a bathroom that isn’t at full capacity, but occasionally some bathrooms get locked due to discipline or maintenance issues. After repeated disciplinary issues at the beginning of the year, the school has decided to crack down on the 10-10 rule. The 10-10 rule doesn’t allow students out of class during the first and last ten minutes of each period, further limiting the times when students can actually get a pass to the bathroom. Not only do students have to worry about limited bathroom options and times they can request passes, but they also have to worry about the timer once they do leave.

But there is no plan for when a teacher forgets to cancel a pass. If a student is out for five minutes but comes back and the teacher forgets to cancel the pass, there are 15 minutes where there are less than fifty people out, but the system thinks it’s at capacity.

E-Hallpass was shut down for a couple of days in February due to cybersecurity issues. If this system is vulnerable to hacking, and needs to be shut down for privacy concerns, should it be used to track where students are?

One positive result of the adoption of E-Hallpass is that it has been a great help for the school security team. According to Safety & Security Assistant Alexis Lazo, the 10-10 rule has allowed the security team to better handle disciplinary issues by making it easier to ensure everyone gets to where they are supposed to be.

The administration and security teams should allow more than 50 students out at one time. With over 2000 students at FC, less than 2.5% of the school is allowed out at one time. E-Hallpass is a tool that should help the Security and Administration teams do their jobs, but it shouldn’t inhibit students from using the restroom.

E-Hallpass does what it is intended to do most of the time. At the end of the day, E-Hallpass isn’t perfect, but it does eliminate the need to carry germ-covered passes in a post-Covid world. It’s a necessary change, just a change that requires some revision.