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Whiteland Community High School goes paperless

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Reams of paper are becoming harder to find at an area high school.

That’s because when the teachers or principals at Whiteland Community High School need to send messages or letters home to parents or students they’re no longer printing about 1,700 letters to stuff in as many envelopes. Instead they email the information, send it through Twitter or Facebook or post it on the high school’s website.

Whiteland also started phasing out printed report cards last year, and this year isn’t printing them for parents and students. Instead they can log on to the high school’s online database to see midterm and semester grades.

Clark-Pleasant schools started reducing its paper usage about three years ago, after Indiana announced it was cutting about $300 million in education spending. Since then the high school has been trying to avoid using paper whenever possible, interim principal John Schilawski said.

“Instructionally, paper consumption is your largest single expense,” Schilawski.

Last month, Whiteland used 70,109 sheets of paper, down about 32 percent from the 103,429 used in November 2011. And posting report cards online instead of printing and mailing them eight times a year saves the high school between $1,000 and $1,500 a year in paper and postage costs, Schilawski said.

If the high school can continue to save money on the cost of paper, then it can potentially lower the fee families are charged for it, Schilawski said.

“We all know the cost of schooling to the individual household is continuing to increase, and we’re trying to be sensitive to our constituency by looking for ways to reduce costs,” Schilawski said.

Paper isn’t completely disappearing around the high school. Teachers and guidance counselors know that not all families have easy access to the Internet or can easily afford the software updates needed to view all of the online documents. Anyone who has problems accessing grades or manuals that detail technology policies or the school’s drug testing policy online can find paper copies in Whiteland’s guidance office, Schilawski said.

Printing a handful of documents to keep in the guidance office is still cheaper than printing copies for all students and their families, Schilawski said.

Teachers are also looking for ways to reduce paper use in the classroom. That can involve keeping a classroom set of exams and having students use their own paper for answer sheets, Schilawski said.

Whiteland hasn’t been tracking how much it’s saving annually by cutting its paper usage, and it’s unlikely parents saw much of a difference in the fees they were charged at the beginning of the school year.

“We’re still very early in the process to have any kind of reliable study on fee impacts, and most people haven’t really felt a lot of the fee impacts simply because the fees are still pretty large for some families,” he said.

But as book and technology fees have been rising each year for parents the high school needs to do all it can to help keep costs down, Schilawski said.

“What can we do so we can watch (fees) slowly creep down, and down and down,” he said.

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