The Lehighton Area School District will officially launch the PowerSchool program on Feb. 1 for all staff, students and parents. PowerSchool is an online student database program that allows parents and students to access grades, attendance, and teacher comments.

Middle School Principal Mark McGalla and project coordinator Lory Frey offered a short presentation on PowerSchool for the school board on Monday. McGalla noted that 87 percent of students in the district have access to a computer with the Internet, and he hoped that access to the online program should be widespread. The program is already in place for seventh grade students and some high school classes.

"If people can't use the Internet, they can call the school to get the information," he added. "We've done this with the seventh graders already. It's gone smoothly."

During the presentation, Frey noted that the program includes parent and student access to classes, grades for every assignment, attendance, and teacher comments. Parents can also request e-mail updates on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

She added that the "teacher comment" section may be especially important for parents who want to know what is going on in class.

"These comments are not comments that are on a report card, only the parent portal," she said, noting that teachers can now add personal notes about why a grade is lower or if a student is doing excellent work.

PowerSchool also features a Daily Bulletin, which lists school events for parents and students. High school students will be able to choose their classes online this year through PowerSchool.

"It's a great communication tool for teachers, students and parents. It's an easier way to see your grades, your assignments," said Frey. "It's a user-friendly program."

PowerSchool was first introduced into the district in March of 2009 with nine staff members and their students, eventually growing to include additional teachers and more than 40 parents in the district, who were able to comment on the system and suggest improvements.

Starting in February, every student in the elementary, middle and high schools will have access to PowerSchool. Parents will soon receive information about PowerSchool in the mail, including letters that include each student's username and password.

Superintendent James Kraky thanked McGalla and Frey for the information, noting that the program has taken more than a year to fully implement in the district.

"If you start thinking about all the names and teachers, all the information that goes into this is enormous. The amount of training that has gone into this has been terrific," said Kraky. "It is a 21st century communication tool. In the long run, this is going to be a terrific tool for parents.

"I think we're going to reap some great benefits from it," he added. "We've had some terrific cooperation from all of the staff involved."