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PowerSchool — the new normal at CVSD

BY JASON STARR

Observer staff

Parents of school kids, you’re not alone if you haven’t yet set up an account on PowerSchool, the Champlain Valley School District’s new online home for all student data.

Two of the school board’s Williston representatives acknowledged Tuesday that they, too, have yet to log on, create a password, verify their identity and upload health and contact information for their children.

In the not-too-distant past, parents would submit this information on paper forms. The district digitized the process two years ago by emailing families a form to fill out online. This year, administrators have adopted PowerSchool — a California-based technology company that about 70 percent of Vermont school districts use, according to Champlain Valley School District Communication Director Bonnie Birdsall.

A letter was mailed to all households over the summer with log-in instructions. Amid the flood of district emails and the back-toschool scramble, a majority of the district’s families have yet to create an account. Some who have tried have reached out to school officials for tech help.

The district will need full participation from parents in Power-School to be able to send required reports to the Vermont Agency of Education.

“We have just been having a crazy end of summer getting ready for school that I haven’t even tried to set it up yet,” school board member Josilyn Adams said Tuesday, the day before the first day of school.

It was also on school board chair Angela Arsenault’s to-do list Tuesday. “There is a lot of information coming at folks at the beginning of the year,” she said. “People are trying to take in so much.”

Sending a hardcopy letter was the district’s attempt to differentiate the PowerSchool requirement from other back-to-school communications.

“I think that was a good move, to not rely solely on email to send the information that you need to set up that account,” Arsenault said. “There was a lot of work that went into figuring out how to best reach families and caregivers to make sure they got all the information they needed.”

Birdsall said about 1,800 families have created accounts so far, out of roughly 4,000 district families. School administrators have fielded calls from parents who couldn’t complete the setup because they didn’t get a verification email from PowerSchool. It turns out, the email had gone to their spam folder. Another issue reported was a parent who got tripped up because they didn’t select a language on one of the first pages of the process.

Families who are having technical difficulties with the set-up or need internet access should contact their school, which will have computers and tech help available, Birdsall said.

Before PowerSchool, school employees would transfer the student health and contact information submitted by parents into an internal online system. PowerSchool eliminates that step, although school employees will still be verifying the information for accuracy.

“I’m excited to see how it can ease various burdens for our administrators and folks in the schools, and it also moves us further along down the path of positive use of technology,” Arsenault said.

After inputting basic student information, families won’t be asked to use PowerSchool again for the remainder of the school year, Birdsall said. The software will be used to help school administrators send reports to the Agency of Education about student enrollment, grades, attendance and discipline, among other things, according to George Martin, the district’s data manager.

Increased functionality for parents will be rolled out on a school-by-school basis, he said.

“This will make everyone’s lives easier and more efficient,” Birdsall said. “This is the initial rollout of something big and it will have challenges, but those have been minor when you think about the size of our district.”

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