Riverview Gardens School District Solves Enrollment Imbalance
Riverview Gardens is a typical Midwestern school district. Serving a northern suburb of St Louis, Mo., the district has just over 7,100 students in 12 schools (nine kindergarten through grade 6, two middle and a high school).
For the district administrators and the school board, the abnormally high level of student mobility within the district was a major challenge. It produced an uneven and unpredictable distribution of students at various grade levels across the district and, consequently, difficulty providing adequate teaching resources.
We used to find, says Cheryl Van Noy, the districts management information systems coordinator, that by the time the enrollment dust had settled in our case usually some time in October one schools grade 4 could have as many as 40 students, while at another school grade 4 would have only 16 or 17. For the district, that meant scrambling to hire teaching staff at the last minute. The quality of teachers available in October tends to be much different from that of those hired in April or May, Van Noy points out.
To address the problem, the board and district administration settled on a policy of balanced enrollment. Starting in September 1999, all grades K through 2 were limited to an enrollment of 23 children, grades 3 and 4 would have 25 and grades 5 and 6 would enjoy a 26 to one student/teacher ratio.
The key to managing this balanced enrollment lay in having clear visibility of the day-to-day registration and enrollment situation across the district. Riverview Garden District was in a good position to accomplish this. In 1997 they had implemented Chancery Softwares site-based student information system, Mac School, in all their buildings.
Using this as a springboard, Riverview Gardens purchased Chancerys district solution, Open District, in April 1999 and implemented it over the summer in time for the start of the school year.
Open District consolidates all the student data gathered in the Mac School database at each of the schools, including student demographics, daily attendance, family contact information, grades and so forth, in the central office Open District database.
The information moves automatically over the districts high-speed T1 network to the central database on a daily basis. In the process, the system enables district MIS staff to scrub the data, eliminating duplicate records, rationalizing conflicts and accomplishing a very high degree of accuracy. The information is made available to district administrators via the districts Microsoft SQL server. Administrators then use Crystal Reports, which ships with the system, and other reporting applications to do their work.
Open District has made a tremendous difference, says Cheryl Van Noy. As well as allowing us to balance our enrollment, our ability to produce accurate reports on district-wide attendance and enrollment will have a real impact on state funding. We know that when we are audited next August, there wont be a problem.
A similar advantage occurs with in-district transfers. Kim Schepker, the school secretary at Glasgow Elementary says, When a parent moves a child from our school to another one, all I have to do is pass the kids permanent record to the next school over the network. We used to have to enter a students information all over again every time they moved. Now it only takes a couple of button clicks.
Of particular value to Riverview Gardens is Open Districts family management capability. This subsystem coordinates each students contact information name, address, legal guardian, etc. in such a way that administrators can tell exactly which students, regardless of their last name, live at the same address, who is responsible for them and whether, in fact, they should be attending school in the district at all.
At the district office, says Van Noy, we really appreciate the control Open District gives us over setup tables and security. We set the standards for how data is entered and who has access to it for the entire district.
While Riverview Gardens hasnt yet had an opportunity to take advantage of Open Districts industry standard Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), to make its data available to other administrative applications, theyre looking forward to it. As a start, we hope next year to link our food service program to the Open District database. That will save us a lot of double data entry. Later we will look at transportation and special education programs.
Chancery Software, Ltd.
This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.