District makes progress with online payment systemIndependent School District 196 is working out the kinks as it prepares to launch an online fee payment system that will allow students and parents to pull out their credit cards for everything from lunches to field trips to athletic fees.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
Independent School District 196 is working out the kinks as it prepares to launch an online fee payment system that will allow students and parents to pull out their credit cards for everything from lunches to field trips to athletic fees.
A group of district employees has been working on the system with technology firm TIES since the District 196 School Board approved the plan last fall. The idea is to make it easier for residents to pay with credit cards so they are less likely to send checks or cash with their children. That can lead to problems when kids forget to turn in their payment, or when they hand it over to district employees who do not typically handle money.
To encourage residents to use the new system when it launches July 1 the district will absorb the fees associated with credit card payments.
Before it gets to that point, though, the district still has a few rough patches to smooth over. A pair of trial runs earlier this year with boys tennis at Eastview High School and Advanced Placement exams at Eastview and Rosemount High School demonstrated both how the system can work and where it still falls short.
Eastview athletic director Matt Percival told board members at a Monday night workshop that the tennis trial ran smoothly for the most part. It was small, with just 35 or 40 students, and parents got some advanced notice and instruction on using the system.
It appears they liked what they saw.
“The feedback from parents has been, ‘Thank you, now I don't have to send money with my kids,’” Percival said.
Coaches also liked the change. The new system automatically delivers a roster to coaches when registration is complete. The system also prevents students from paying for a sport if they do not have a current physical on file. It is the first payment system in the state to do that, Percival said.
Things were a bit more tumultuous for the AP sign up. That process involved roughly 2,000 students and did not feature an introductory session. Several technical issues popped up during the process, including some that kept parents from completing their registration. There were also some issues with parents failing to read the form correctly. Designers said that can be fixed with changes to the user interface to make it more obvious what needs to be filled out.
Board member Art Coulson was one of the parents who had technical difficulties. He tried three times to pay online before giving up. He suggested parents will be less forgiving once the system launches for real. If the system gets too frustrating, they’ll go back to paying with cash or checks.
"You've got one shot with parents," he said.
Percival said there were about 1,500 successful AP registrations online and 500 failures, though some of the people who failed were later successful. All told, parents paid about $85,000 online.
A representative for TIES said the company is about 60 percent finished with the system and on pace to launch in July.