410 pleased with first year of total online enrollment

Staff members who helped implement USD 410?s first totally online enrollment process this month say they are pleased with how smoothly the process worked?even with the occasional hiccup.

?There are some things we have to tweak or explain better for next year,? said Carla Har?mon, board treasurer. ?We?ve learned a lot about what worked and what maybe didn?t work so well. But I think overall it was a positive response.?

Online enrollment was offered last year to a test group of parents. This was the first year all students were to be enrolled online, and it was the first year parents could pay their enrollment fees online.

?That was one of the key things we wanted to get as an option if we were going to go to online enrollment,? Harmon said.

?We hope the (software) company will have even more options in the future that will help patrons, like maybe pay by e-check. It goes directly into the bank and doesn?t have to be handled manually.?

Patrons still have a face-to-face payment option, if they prefer it.

?The one thing we want to get out to the public is that they can still make cash and check payments in our building office at anytime,? she added. ?They do not have to go through the online payment system.?

Benefits for patrons

The enrollment period for USD 410 was Aug. 5 through 19. Families who needed access to a computer or to the Internet were invited to the high school commons for an online enrollment session Aug. 16, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Staff said believe the process was a time-saver for both patrons and the staff.

As for patrons, ?They didn?t have to stand and wait in line, and it gave them some convenience so they could do it when they wanted to,? said Amy Plett, district office secretary. ?As long as they had Internet access, they could log on at 2 o?clock in the morning to enroll their student if they wanted to.?

Patrons who came to the commons for Internet access had 30 laptops to chose from as well as four district personnel on hand to help them log on and navigate the process.

?That was probably uncomfortable for some people who aren?t familiar with the Internet, but that?s how we wanted them to complete it because there really wasn?t a paper option,? Harmon said. ?We provided the Internet access, but they went through the same process as everyone else.?

Benefits for district

For the district, online enrollment enhances efficiency and saves time?and ultimately money.

?It links directly into the district?s information system,? Harmon said of the process. ?Parents go in, enter information, and it ties to fields in our database. We don?t have to repopulate and it saves us time. That was the main goal, to save time.?

Patti Funk, middle school secretary, serves on a statewide committee of district representatives for Skyward, the software program used by the district. She did a lot of the initial leg work and believes the impact for the district is significant.

?It used to be, when we did this by paper, it would take the secretaries about to the end of September to get all the changes made,? Funk said. ?Now, with this online enrollment, we?ll be done when enrollment is finished at the end of today (Aug. 19).?

Funk said the involvement of parents helps to improve accuracy, too.

?It?s so much easier to do it online because the parents are doing the changes for us,? she said.

?They?re good proofreaders when it comes to their own kids. They can look at their own kid?s file and say, ?No, you?ve got a wrong phone number here.? And they?ll change it for us.

?We still approve all the changes they make, so a parent can?t get in and make all kinds of wild changes. But at least they?re able to go in there and say we need to change this to this.?

Funk developed most of the online forms and documents specific to USD 410 in preparation for last year?s test run.

?Once you?ve done it once, it?s not hard to do it a second year,? she said.

Some complaints

As expected, the district team did hear some complaints from parents, but most of them had to do with unfamiliarity with the system itself.

?Every time you use something new, it takes a time or two to know how use it,? Funk said. ?And then if you don?t use it more than once a year, it adds to the challenge.

?We?re always listening to parents and want to make it easy for them,? she added.

Added Harmon: ?I know there?ll be a few more things that we hear. Hopefully, next year when we do it, it will be great.?

Unexpected benefit

Another benefit of requiring online enrollment is that it exposed parents to the services available to them through the?Family Access? feature on the district?s website.

?We did find out that for some parents, it was the first time they had logged into the system to see what information they can see on their child,? Harmon said.

?I think it was enlightening to some parents to see that they can check attendance and grades and that kind of thing.

?And we want them to use Family Access, so it was good for us too,? she added.

Steve Noble, superintendent said online enrollment is one more step the district is taking to become a ?default digital district.?

?The thing we?ll always attempt to do first is to do it digitally before we spend money copying and doing paper stuff,? he said.

?That?s where the world is headed, regardless of whether we want to go there or not,? he said.

?It does save us money in copying and printing expenses, and then it makes the back end of the accounting and business side of things more efficient and more accurate.?

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