Special Ed Department goes paperless; students’ files to be stored electronically

January 19, 2011 — by Sarah Hull and Parul Singh

In an effort to go paperless, the special education department has begun the process of converting the paper files of all its students into electronic documents that will be stored on a comprehensive database. The project will significantly reduce the amount of paper currently in storage and allow for a greater ease of access to the files.

“We have paper files for all the students, past and present, which means that we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pieces of paper,” said instructional aide Patrick Neddersen, who is in charge of the project. “We’re trying to scan in all the information so that we can search for information instead of having to go through these huge files.”

The intent is for the electronic files to be identical to the physical copies, except that they will be saved virtually instead of taking up much-needed storage space. At this time, Neddersen estimates that if the files were stacked on top of one another, they would be as tall as a two-story building.
“I think it’s a good idea because there’s an awful lot of paper taking up a lot of space, and it has really become an issue because we have so many files,” said special education department chair Anna Marie Villalobos, who is assisting with the endeavor.

From a law standpoint, student files must be kept on site for five years after a student’s graduation; however, the district keeps the files for an indefinite amount of time, which has led to the accumulation of paper.

Villalobos and Neddersen also hope that this transition to an electronic medium will make it easier for staff to communicate with both students and parents regarding the student’s progress within school. Once students have left Saratoga High, their files will remain within the database so they will always be available if they ever need to retrieve them.

Students won’t need to worry about all the paperwork and it will be much less of a hassle if they have digital copy of their files, said Villalobos.

Nedderson is currently working on converting all the files into PDF documents and figuring out an appropriate way to store them. Right now he is scanning all the files in by himself, but hopes that in the future other staff members will be instructed on how to so in order to expedite the process, which he hopes will be completed before the end of school year.

Although the project has run into some difficulties, school psychologist Mark Atkinson, who is helping him, is confident that the challenges they are currently facing will be resolved shortly.
“I think the project is moving forward very well and I’m very excited,” said Atkinson. “There have been some hurdles on the technological end as well as the training of the staff, but I think once we finish the process that we’ll never go back [to paper files].”

Atkinson hopes that this effort to go paperless will spread to other departments and prompt staff members to print out less materials.

“We’re testing it out here [in special education] first, but as we go along, we’re going to be evolving what we’re doing based on feedback,” Atkinson said. “I would hope to see that in the future the whole school, maybe even the whole district, would be paperless.”

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