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Wednesday July 28, 1999

Log in to check on kids' studies Computer site tracks homework

By Jennifer Gish Dispatch/Sunday News

A father of four school-age children, Francis McKee said he knows keeping track of kids' homework assignments is one of parenthood's unpleasant duties.

So, when his information technology company, St. Andrew Development Inc. in York, started brainstorming about education programs, McKee said he quickly remembered a Disneyland vacation he took several years ago with two of his children.

Wondering if his daughter had completed her missed school assignments during the trip, McKee said he asked his daughter what her teacher told her to do during the vacation. And he said he was told matter-of-factly by his child that the teacher told her to "have a great time."

Because students are sometimes inclined to forget about homework assignments or lose them on their way home from school, McKee's company developed a program called SchooLink , which keeps records of students' class assignments and provides links to teachers' e-mail addresses, so parents and students can communicate with the faculty outside of school.

"We're hoping to bridge that gap," said McKee, the president of St. Andrew. "It's really a universal concern that parents have." The Dover Area School District and York Catholic High School will use the program this fall. McKee said he is hoping more area schools will begin using the program as well.

Students will receive identification numbers, which they use to log in to the site and get a listing of their assignments. Teachers will update homework assignments daily. An archive of past homework also is available.

Dover will pay for the program through grant money and funds provided by state Rep. Todd Platts, R-Springettsbury, Dover Area Superintendent George Severns said. "The whole push has been to make a stronger connection with the community, and about three years ago we decided we want to make that an electronic connection as well," he said.

Assignments will be updated on the Web site for kindergarten through 12th-graders. And because not all students have access to the Internet at home, Severns said the district hopes to install kiosks with the program in several community locations, such as Rutter's Farm Stores.

About 80 percent of the students in grades seven through 12 at York Catholic have Internet access at home, said Principal George Andrews. The 20 percent who don't can check assignments at school through its on-line computers.
The school already requires students to keep a written record of all of their assignments, Andrews said, but the Web site is meant to help when students forget or copy them incorrectly.

"It will help the parents when Johnny comes home and says he doesn't have any homework for English," he said.
SchooLink can be viewed by looking for the SchooLink link on St. Andrew's Web site at www.standrew.com .