A student attempting to open the Aeries app on their phone with an error message
by Gus Cromwell, Opinion Editor, and Scout Tatham, staff writer
Santa Rosa City Schools transitioned grading and scheduling software from Illuminate to Aeries over the summer of 2021. There have been numerous hurdles to overcome with the new software, and by all accounts, students and staff alike are still settling in.
Maria Carrillo High School students, teachers, and administration say the transition was plagued by issues. Students were not able to access their grades until weeks after school started, and teachers were not able to enter grades because of a lack of prior training. MCHS counselor Kim Handel said “it was very challenging,” citing the lack of training before the school year began.
The largest issue the administration and counseling staff seemed to grapple with was the rollout of the software and the training needed to operate it. Aeries is vital to dealing with student schedules, transcripts, and grades. Commenting on the rollout, Handel said “We thought it would happen earlier in the summer.” This stunted rollout was coupled with “no explanation,” as MCHS registrar Ann Janes put it.
Training sessions have arrived in many cases only as they were most needed. Janes said, “I have been trained in enrolling and dropping students, and recently we had our first in-person training, and we learned how to deal with oral grades.” That was it, though. She said, “During a normal year I would be finished inputting transcripts,” but this year she has been inputting seniors’ transcript information into Illuminate with the hope that it will get carried over into Aeries later. She said she is “on hold,” just waiting until she is trained so she can input new students’ information directly into the new system. Janes said with the addition of Aeries that she is now working across three platforms: eSchoolPlus for students who graduated prior to 2018, as well as Illuminate and Aeries for current students.
Students have their own reservations about the software as well, with senior Grace Darow saying she was “not a huge fan of it.” Though she enjoyed the mobile app, she also said the learning curve with the new system was annoying. Junior Evan Jackson cited difficulties acquiring past records of grades for the California Scholarship Federation. He also felt that students were “left in the dark,” with a lack of an explanation of what was happening behind the scenes. He empathized with teachers and the technical hiccups that they were facing with the new system. Sophomore Mason Ingersoll said how he finds himself not checking his grades as often with the switch, further stating that Aeries was “annoying at first” and that “it’s harder to use.”
SRCS Director of Data, Testing & Assessment Rand Van Dyke had not responded to our requests for comment at press time.
However, Aeries has also gained some positive feedback from staff and students alike. Jackson said that Aeries seemed more user-friendly with less “complicated annoying menus” to navigate through. Darow agreed, and cited the user-friendliness of Aeries, even stating that she checks her grade more often than she did while using Illuminate. Although finding the change “dumb,” freshman Rylie Basham said Aeries has some good features. “I feel like Aeries has some better things like access to missing assignments and due dates,” Basham said. However, she still missed Illuminate’s ease of access to oral and semester grades.
Staff as well have noted how user-friendly Aeries is on the back end. Janes said “I look forward to the future with the Aeries system” and that the going has been “getting easier” over time. Once more training happens, she thinks that it will be better than Illuminate was. Handel remarked that the “day to day use of Aeries has been pretty easy to pick up.” When asked about her thoughts on Aeries and Illuminate, chemistry teacher Joy Shermer noted “I think they’re both cumbersome from the gradebook perspective, but good for the school perspective, because we all communicate on a common platform.”