Monday is First Day Students, Parents can Sign In to Aspen, the New Computer Student Information System, in Bernards Township

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The Bernards Board of Education office. Credits: By Linda Sadlouskos
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BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Starting Monday, Aug. 28, Ridge High and William Annin middle school students should be able to see their class schedules by way of a new computer student information system called Aspen. It replaces the ESchool system.

School begins Thursday, Sept. 7.

“Aspen will be a work in progress and I ask for your patience as we will all be learning to use this new tool,” wrote Superintendent Nick Markarian in an Aug. 11 letter to students and parents.

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On Aug. 21, principals were supposed to send information about teacher assignments and student schedules.

Students and parents will first need to set up accounts by going to the Student Portal through the website: https://nj-bernards.myfollett.com/

When students log in to the portal for the first time, the account must be initiated. To do so, the student with their parent will need to acknowledge receiving and agreeing to three documents: the district technology use policy; student/parent handbook and the student code of conduct.

Parents who log into the system Monday will have the opportunity to provide feedback to board members that evening. The Board of Education will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28, at the Board of Education, 110 Peachtree Road, Basking Ridge, in the conference room. A copy of the agenda can be found on the website here

The decision to move to a new student information system came after years of work, the superintendent said in an Aug. 11 letter. He said a committee of district employees worked months to develop a request for proposals, which resulted in the district receiving four options for consideration.

The superintendent wrote: “Some of the benefits of moving to Aspen include: more robust data reporting, the ability to create workflows to automate time-consuming tasks and the ability to integrate and sync with other software we use to generate efficiencies and a single source of information.”

 Moving to a new student information system allows tweaks to meet the district’s needs – “to evaluate processes to make them better, more efficient and more user-friendly,” Markarian wrote.

“For example, when we worked with Aspen to configure our end-of-course grade calculation, we were able to adjust the method to one that is much simpler for users to understand . . . Another example is the way we configure Aspen for students and parents to access information from home.”

 Under ESchool, the parent/student portal accessed from home was called the Home Access Center. In Aspen, the connection from home is via the Aspen Student Portal or the Aspen Parent Portal. Children in the same family have separate accounts and parents can, too. The Aspen Parent Portal will be open on or about Oct. 1.

 One benefit to the new system, he wrote, is that children will no longer be able to view their sibling’s grade reports while they view their own.

In a report evaluating bid proposals, Aspen had the best overall ranking by the committee led by Brian Heineman, director of curriculum and instruction.

 “In addition to the core SIS functions of scheduling, grading, attendance and family access, the workflow tracking is excellent and represents a major benefit to the productivity of the district,” the report said. “Aspen’s ability to easily query the database in multiple ways allows for fast access to data and true data-based decision-making opportunities.”

The system was the most customizable and allows the option to use third parties or built-in solutions as the district sees fit, the report said.

Overall cost was the second lowest of the four submitted proposals. The report estimated the first-year cost of Aspen to be $111,100, and a five-year cost of $300,300.

Aspen is used by large districts, like Boston, Chicago and Miami-Dade County, the report noted. It was the largest and perhaps most secure company in the bid process and provided the most modern technology solution and robust support system, the report said. The references in New Jersey were overwhelmingly positive, the report said.

 

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