Fall River school officials want student registration process to be less like the RMV

Fall River school officials want student registration process to be less like the RMV – News – The Herald News, Fall River, MA

FALL RIVER — “Customer service” is not necessarily a phrase one would expect to hear school officials using. But improving the kind of “customer service” the district delivers through its Parent Information Center has been on school officials’ minds. In recent discussions both verbal and written, officials said they would like to make the process of registering new students for school more convenient and efficient for parents, and relocate the Parent Information Center to make it more accessible.

So school officials are looking to move the center from its current location at B.M.C. Durfee High School, and to create a new student registration system online through which parents can complete the initial steps of registering their children for school.

Barbara Allard, who directs the Parent Information Center and the Early Childhood Center, said roughly 900 new kindergarten students are registered each year. And currently registration for those new students is completely done on-paper and in-person at the center. After receiving a student’s paperwork, a clerk manually enters their information into the district’s system, called Aspen.

On a recent afternoon, parents and their children were seen sitting in chairs arranged along one wall in the center, waiting for their turns to meet with a clerk. Many parents spoke English with that clerk, while others were heard speaking Spanish and Portuguese.

Like renewing a driver’s license or car registration at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the registration process itself is relatively quick.

However, there can be a wait, school officials said, as it’s a walk-in, first-come, first-serve process. At the Parent Information Center, depending on how many parents are waiting and the number of available staff, it can take as long as an hour or even more for parents to register their students.

That wait would be significantly reduced in the new registration system, which the School Committee approved in a vote last month. Parents would have the option to start the registration process online and complete it in-person by scheduling an appointment.

A few steps, like pre-school screening and interviews, would still take place in person, explained Brian Mikolazyk, the district’s School Information coordinator who is overseeing the transition from one system to another.

Mikolazyk said the hope is to transition from a registration process that’s a 100 percent in-person process to one that’s about 70 percent online and 30 percent in-person.

It would be convenient because parents have the option of completing most of the registration online and then making a short appointment. It would be efficient because the information that was submitted online could then be directly transferred into the district’s database.

Mikolazyk said  Registration Gateway should be ready to launch by November 1st.

 

Parents will still need to appear with families, as the interview and screening for potential specials needs would still need to take place in person. But, Mikolazyk said, the filling out of registration forms — “that huge first step, the most time-consuming part, is out of the way.”

Mikolazyk said that in the new process, registrations should take about 20 minutes to complete. He added that even after it launches, parents would have the option to still use the walk-in process to start the registrations.

Mikolazyk assured the Registration Gateway will be secure, when asked about potential security concerns.

“It is a secure site. They do encrypt their data,” he said. “The transfer would also be a secure site.”

Mikolazyk said because the system will be used to handle confidential student data, “it’s not going to be a Mickey Mouse system.”

Mikolazyk said the district still needs to officially purchase that system.Then, after the purchase, it’s implemention “could take a few months.”

 

“There is some leg work to be done,” he said. That work that includes translating the registration documents into Portuguese and Spanish.

School officials are also looking to move the Parent Information Center to a more centralized location in the city, with both available parking and accessibility by public transportation. The center used to be located in the Stone School building on Globe Street, but was moved to Durfee five years ago, when the district established the Stone Therapeutic Day School program at the former building.

Fall River Schools Chief Operating Officer Tom Coogan said the district would soon be seeking bids for proposed locations for the center.

On the decisions to move the center and to try online student registrations, Coogan said, “I certainly think if we’re able to provide better resources and services, we should try to make that available. It makes everything smoother.”

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