“Just when we needed it, we had a system in place to let parents upload all of the relevant information into an online account and get their kids enrolled.”
Enrollment: 35,000+ students
CCS is comprised of 42 schools
Monthly revenue generated through Scribbles: ~$2,300
Scribbles Solutions used: ScribEnroll, ScribChoice, ScribPreK, ScribOrder, ScribTransfer, ScribOnline, ScribForms
Accelerated by the need for accessible online applications, Cabarrus County Schools was looking for a way to simplify and streamline the enrollment process for students, families, and staff. Managing loads of paperwork and forms for more than 30,000 students was a dated, error-prone process and staff were ready to move forward with a secure and accessible solution. ScribEnroll was implemented at the district level and was easily adopted by even the least tech-savvy users. We chatted with Enrollment Specialist Sylvia Fuenmayor from the district to learn more about how the school community responded to moving enrollment online and the precedent it set for the future.
What can you tell us about Cabarrus County Schools?
Sylvia Fuenmayor: We are a 35,000-student school district with 38 campuses, 20 elementary schools, eight middle schools and 10 high schools. We also operate two early college programs to help our growing student body prepare for higher education. We offer STEM-focused curricula, IB, arts-based education and seven academies, including the virtual academy we just launched. We also have a couple of language immersion programs for Spanish and Mandarin, seven focused academies for high school students and a year-round schedule we feel works best for the community we serve.
What was it like going online for enrollment, especially during the disruption of the pandemic?
SF: The district had been talking about going online for some time before the pandemic, and we were all set to make it happen even if it had been a normal school year. But when the pandemic hit and the schools had to close, it was actually a lot more convenient. Because we had so many students and families displaced or just moving and needing to be re-enrolled, moving it all online with ScribEnroll was a great way to switch from face-to-face interactions to something that was all online. Just when we needed it, we had a system in place to let parents upload all of the relevant information into an online account and get their kids enrolled.
What was the process like before ScribEnroll? What would it have been like with the schools closed without it?
SF: It would have been unimaginable. Summers are always busy for us, with all of the families moving into and out of the district, but having to figure out a plan for doing it no-contact would have been close to impossible. So, we were very grateful to have this system in place when it all started coming down on us. In fact, because of the added pressure, we managed to implement the changeover even sooner than we had originally scheduled it.
Did everybody feel comfortable with the online enrollment process? How did the families in your district handle the change?
SF: Everybody so far has been happy with what we're doing. Aside from a few hiccups, mainly among families that aren't too familiar with technology, things have largely gone smoothly. For those who aren't intuitively grasping the new process, we've designated several district employees to sort of hold their hands through the process. We even have support workers who can speak Spanish, and we have made special provisions for the families that don't have easy access to the sort of technology they would need to get online and sign up. We're training staff to help people work through the signup process on different devices, such as iPads and smartphones. Having everything in place and ready to go before the closings cut a lot of time and hard work off of the learning curve for everybody.
What can you do for the families resistant to the all-digital enrollment process? Like, the people who just want to come in physically and fill out paper forms?
SF: Those people do exist in our district, and it can be difficult to walk through the process with them if they're having trouble with a digital enrollment process. ScribEnroll is pretty easy to use, but a lot of families in our district speak only Spanish, or they have limited access to technology and can't complete the enrollment on their own. I actually speak Spanish myself and can help get across the language barrier, and I frequently walk the families through the process over the phone. Usually, I'll have them just email me the documents we need, and then we can input the information pretty quickly after that.
It is important to remain calm and just walk them through the process as best you can. I try to remember that I work in the system every day, so what's routine for me is new to many families. While I've made the effort to become kind of tech-savvy for online enrollment, I have to remember that not everybody is as comfortable with technology as I am. So we have to prepare for those families' needs and be ready to make the process as easy for them as possible. Fortunately, ScribEnroll makes it really easy. Just click, click, submit, and it's ready to go.
What is the process like for your coworkers? Have they had the same success with ScribEnroll that you have?
SF: It's pretty normal for some people to resist changes, no matter what they are. There's always going to be a little pushback. For something this new, I would say that, in the beginning, it was close to 50/50, with about half of the staff getting on board right away and about half digging in with some level of resistance. There were also naturally some bumps in the road with families, of course. Everyone's time is valuable, though, and eventually, it sinks in for everyone that this system is such a massive time saver it's worth the time it takes to learn it.
So I would say that most of the pushback we have gotten is from families who are used to doing things a certain way and don't have any reason to change on short notice. We are still committed to making it work, however, which is why our staff is here to help out with families who don't have the same experience we do with the development and implementation of the Scribbles software.
Pulling back and looking at the whole process, how would you say the online-only rollout has gone so far?
SF: At first, it tends to be rough for new families and people who aren't sure what to expect from the process. After they upload their documents and get into the process, it all becomes really easy. The average time is somewhere in the 10-15 minute range. I think that's great, and it's gone a long way toward bringing everybody on board with the new process.
It's also been great for families because it's so much easier, in addition to being quicker. Even on a practical level, online-only enrollment means you don't have to get dressed up and put on makeup, take time off from your job to drive to the office or anything else like that. You can just do it from home or, as I said, on the go from your iPad. And with the pandemic pushing things along, it's been much more convenient. People can enroll their kids in school from the comfort and safety of their own homes and not have to deal with masks or with social distancing in a district office.
What message would you give to people in another district who might be considering making the same switch you have and going fully online for enrollment?
SF: I would encourage them to do it. This is absolutely the way of the future, so we're all going to have to learn it soon anyway. And with ScribEnroll it isn't even hard or too time-consuming to do. If you're keeping up with the technology, it'll be pretty easy for you to slide right into the new process, and even if it's foreign to you at first, there's help available to make it easier. I would say that the key to getting everyone in on the process is to have some staff available who can help the late adopters find their feet and make it through the process for the first time. That has helped us get ahead of the curve for implementation.
Cabarrus County Schools seems to have implemented its enrollment process in waves. What can you tell us about doing things that way?
SF: I think it was a great idea to roll out the new process in waves, organized according to grade levels, which really helped cut down on confusion and straighten out a few bugs along the way. We started with kindergartners in March, for first-time enrollments, and it worked so well that we added rising sixth and ninth-graders to the same wave. So these were the previous year's fifth and eighth-graders, and they were just re-enrolling for a new school year. Their families generally had all their information in the system already and just had to fill out a pretty easy form online.
What's great about doing it this way is that the system keeps a record of vital information and doesn't need new paper copies of everything year after year like before. So, say you're enrolling your kindergartner in school for the first time. You will need some things to get started, such as a birth certificate and proof of residence, like a lease or whatever. The system keeps it all on file and updates it automatically. So what was a bit of an uphill climb for some families in the first year has the potential to become smooth sailing for the rest of their children's school career in the district because of that.
Is there anything you would like to add about your experience with ScribEnroll?
SF: I'm grateful we've had the chance to work with the program. Despite the rollout challenges during a pandemic, it's all been worth it.
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