Edline is high school's new information clearinghouse
Some old familiar excuses - "I forgot my homework" or "I didn't know my assignments" - may no longer work for students at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS).
This year's expansion of Edline, a secure electronic portal on the high school's website, puts assignments, handouts, schedules, school records, notices and other information just a click away for students and parents. Information that used to be mailed to students is now posted on Edline.
"What we're trying to accomplish is eventually shifting everything online to get away from paper," MVRHS principal Steven Nixon said. "Edline is where parents and students need to go, because everything is there."
In an interview last week at the high school, Mr. Nixon and technology director Woody Filley enthusiastically described Edline's merits and enhanced features that have been added since its debut a year ago.
"This is accessible from any computer on hand, so whether you're at home, in a public library, or you're on vacation, you have access 24 hours a day," Mr. Filley said. "It lets people get information on their own time. In years past, you'd have to call during school hours or you'd have to stop by to get a form, and now we're trying to make as much of this information available as possible through Edline."
As Mr. Filley demonstrated, when a parent logs in, his or her child's name appears, along with those of any siblings at the school. General information is on the opening page. English or Portuguese can be selected.
A parent also can check a student's class schedule and teachers' names. Clicking on a teacher's name brings up an individualized page, where homework assignments are posted and handout materials are available electronically.
A calendar feature combines all of a student's information from different teachers, including class assignments, papers due, and exams, into one document.
"It enables us to function regardless of where a student is," Mr. Nixon said. Edline helps students who are out of school due to illness or a family emergency keep up with homework and avoid falling too far behind, he said.
Edline also offers links to information about the Parent-Teacher-Student Organization, sports teams, the guidance department, and swine flu, to name a few. Another link allows parents to create and manage a lunch account for a student online.
Since Edline is a secure site that requires a log-in and password, private reports, including discipline reports, also are available online.
"It used to be, depending where on the Island a student lived, by the time the parents got a mailing home that if a student had to do detention, it had probably already occurred," Mr. Nixon said. "Now, parents can see if a student gets written up for anything." They can also view electronic progress reports and report cards on Edline.
A new "pick a time" feature enables parents to book conferences with teachers electronically. The scheduling process used to be done manually and required many man-hours.
This year, for the first time, Mr. Nixon said parents are requested to use Edline to schedule parent-teacher conferences between October 26 and 30. (See boxed information.)
"You take your child's schedule, and Edline brings up all his or her teachers, along with boxes in 10-minute increments, so you can book them all for either evening or daytime conferences," Mr. Nixon said. "The boxes are color-coded, so you can see which times teachers already have booked and pick your conference times to fit your schedule."
In the past when the high school mailed all documents, some parents did not receive them, and some overlooked or lost them.
On Edline, as soon as a document is created electronically, it can be posted online immediately. Parents who provide Mr. Filley with their email addresses and registration will receive emails letting them know anytime their Edline account has new information. In the meantime, previous information is archived and remains available if someone needs to refer back to it.
Last month a letter sent home to parents explained Edline's important role. The letter instructed those who do not have computers or access to the Internet to call the school so they would continue to receive information by mail. There have only been a few requests so far, Mr. Nixon said.
However, he added, for big issues, the high school will not reply on Edline to notify parents. "I just want to stress that this is in addition to, not in place of, actual parent contact," Mr. Nixon said. "We still meet with parents; we still talk with them on the phone. There are things we still do face to face, and it never precludes that from happening."
The high school's regular website, accessible by the public, continues to offer general information, including community-oriented news posted on Edline, Mr. Nixon said.
Increasing Edline usage is one of the School Improvement Plan goals this year, for environmental and financial reasons. Mr. Filley said Edline costs about $3,500 for annual service.
"One huge bulk mailing could cost you $1,000 in mailing costs alone," Mr. Nixon pointed out. "Printing costs for an 8- or 12-page newsletter could cost another $1,000. It costs us nothing to put that on Edline, so it definitely pays for itself."
Schedule parent-teacher conferences on Edline
Parents of MVRHS students must use Edline in order to schedule parent-teacher conferences on October 26-30. The deadline for scheduling is October 17.
Parent-teacher conference times are between 2:30 and 3:30 pm on Monday and Wednesday; between 6:30 and 9 pm on Tuesday and Thursday; and between 12:30 and 2:30 pm on Friday.
For those who do not have an Edline account, call 508-693-1033, ext. 222 to set one up. For more information, call 508-693-1033, ext. 126.