June 17, 2014
Parents and students of Albemarle County Public Schools will notice something missing next year. There will be a lot less paper sent home from school. Backpacks will be lighter. Mailboxes will be a little leaner at report card time.
The school division announced Tuesday that throughout the next school year, much of its information for parents and students will be distributed electronically. The division said this change in its communications system will not only save money in a tight budget year, but also increase the immediacy and depth of information available to families with students enrolled in the division’s 26 schools.
“Both objectives are important. We want to save every dollar we can, but at the same time, we’d like to make it easier for parents to be more involved on a more frequent basis with their child’s education,” said Dr. Billy Haun, the Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning.
The school division will increase the use of its existing resources, which includes its Parent Portal and Blackboard messaging system in its elementary, middle and high schools. Information previously transmitted by paper, which includes class and teacher assignments, bus routes, student meal accounts, attendance, course requests from parents and students, course schedules and syllabi, interim and quarterly progress reports, and teacher recommendations, all will now be distributed online.
Since its introduction two years ago as a pilot program, use of the school division’s online Parent Portal has been as high as 93 percent at Sutherland Middle School, for instance.
“Parents tell us they are pleased with their ability to check their child’s progress daily and with not having to wait for a report card or an interim report to be mailed,” said Sutherland principal Dave Rogers. “This immediate feedback benefits the student because both the teacher and the parent are seeing current status and are able to regularly monitor progress. At the same time, we’re being environmentally and fiscally responsible by saving on postage and paper resources, so it’s a win-win for everybody,” Rogers said.
Parents and students access the Parent or Student Portal through an electronic key provided by the school that can be used on any computer with an Internet connection. Access keys only are available in person at the school, where parents or guardians also can receive instruction on how to participate in the portal.
Parents or guardians without access to a computer can contact their local school for assistance. Families also have the option to opt out of the electronic information system and continue to receive information in paper form.
Principals will be providing information to all parents this summer on how the expanded electronic information system will work and how to take advantage of its benefits.
As for the financial impact, Dr. Haun noted early estimates indicate that the move to a more robust electronic information system could save upwards of $100,000 or more each year.