Gresham-Barlow district starts digital conversion
On an August day last summer, John Koch, executive director of student support services at Gresham-Barlow School District, was sweating bullets.
It was mostly due to the 95-degree Ohio heat at his parents' place, but Koch was nervous. He had to decide whether or not to shred 3,000 students' special education files now that Novitas Data had digitized them.
He decided not to.
But ever since, the thousands of pounds of paper have just been sitting untouched in file cabinets.
Novitas Data was right: Gresham-Barlow wouldn't miss them.
"Our files are now safer and more secure than they ever have been, and they're more easily accessed," Koch said.
The school administrator estimates that through more efficient use of school staff's time, it will take 18-24 months to earn back the cost of having Novitas Data scan and organize the more than 1 million pages of students' special education documents.
The $68,155 contract, paid for out of bond funds, means that, for example, physical therapists don't have to go back and forth to the district office anymore, checking paper files in and out. And school secretaries don't have to spend what Koch estimated to be 45 minutes per file finding them and mailing them to students' new schools at the beginning of the year.
"Now that's turned into a three-to-four minute exercise," Koch said.
The Gresham-Barlow administrator was turned on to the service by Chris Torrey, a Sam Barlow High School graduate and now a parent in the district. Torrey is an account executive at Novitas Data, which built its local business mostly through organizing legal firms' and other corporations' paperwork.
"We have been scanning sensitive documents for a long time," Torrey said.
Novitas Data started in 1997 as Pacific Legal, a photocopying service, but has expanded to digital files, keeping them secure through trained staff and scanners that are not connected to the internet.
After a couple months of Novitas Data's work, Gresham-Barlow staff now look at, and add to, these electronic files through secure connections via DocuWare — the software program that accesses the new files. The electronic files are also keyword-searchable.
Koch said other departments in Gresham-Barlow are thinking about digitizing their files, too. Soon, all student files in the district could be electronic.
Torrey said Novitas Data already has a contract with Reynolds School District to scan their files in January. Otherwise, he said most schools still organize their student files in boxes or cabinets in a room somewhere.
"It's easy to say most school districts do not have an organized, digitized database of student files," Torrey said.
Koch said he still has a hard time letting go of the paper files. But he's glad he and his staff can work more efficiently without them now.
"I think it's the wave of the future," Koch said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.