By Bob Skolnik
Pretty soon families with children in Riverside Elementary District 96 schools will be able to pay all school fees online. Trekking to the school or district office to pay a fee will be a thing of the past.
The district is moving toward online payment of fees with a web-based system that is expected to be rolled out on Dec. 1 and fully implemented by Feb. 1, 2019, prior to registration for the 2019-20 school year.
"We're really looking at it as a convenience factor for families," said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye.
The district will use the vendor PushCoin, which has an online fee payment system designed specifically for education. The cost to the district is expected to be about $12,000 a year.
"PushCoin really provided a comprehensive solution," said Don Tufano, the district's director of innovation and instructional technology. "It really is an all in one solution."
PushCoin is also used by Brookfield-LaGrange District 102.
All school fees will be able to be paid online including registration fees, lunch fees, yearbooks, locks, activity fees and field trip fees through the district's online "store." If parents pay by credit card, they will be charged a credit card processing fee of 2.9 percent plus 25 cents per transaction. There will also be a free e-check payment option.
The system will allow parents to put money in a student's account to pay for lunches, and it has extensive reporting features and parents will be able to see what a child has bought for lunch.
"It will give us a lot of reporting, reminders, fee tracking," Tufano said.
Tufano said that system will allow automatic replenishment of the account when balances run low. There will also be an app for smart phones.
The system should increase the speed of lunch lines.
"Kids are going to be able to go through the lines faster," said Central School Principal Pete Gatz. "You won't have to have people chasing lunch tickets down."
And parents might like seeing what their children are buying for lunch.
"If they bought ice cream for the table, you know," said Gatz, whose daughter goes to a school that uses the PushCoin system.
According to Tufano, the system will allow the district to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, cash transactions, which will improve internal processes and controls.
"We'll probably be taking in less cash, which is always a good thing," Tufano said. "We'll have less cash floating around."
Some other area districts have allowed online payment of school fees for some time. Riverside-Brookfield High School has permitted online payment of school fees since 2012, and Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 has allowed online payment of fees for the past three years.
"It's clearly a convenience that's long overdue," said District 96 school board member Rich Regan, who chairs the district's finance committee.
In District 95, the district absorbs credit card fees for all purchases except for lunch accounts.
"Any fees other than lunch the district absorbs the fees," said District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski.
District 95 uses a different vendor, MySchoolBucks.
Kuzniewski estimated that about 90 percent of District 95 students who purchase lunch use the online system rather than paying for each lunch separately. He estimated that 98 percent of other fees are paid online.