The Washington School Board took its first step toward paperless meetings with the approval of a new electronic management system.

The board Wednesday night approved purchasing BoardDocs LT, a web-based service which posts all relevant documents online.

School officials said the system will reduce paper waste, labor and delivery costs of the large packets sent out each month to board members.

Julie Bell, assistant to the superintendent, said the system provides a means of immediately publishing and revising agenda items and support documents via the Internet.

It eliminates the written documentation while providing a secure source for storing and searching documents, she said.

Board members were provided with a list of over 40 school districts in Missouri currently utilizing BoardDocs. That list includes large school districts such as Parkway, Francis Howell and Ladue, but also smaller ones, including St. James and Nixa.

The annual cost for the LT version is $2,700, and there is a one-time start-up fee of $1,000. Bell said the Pro version, which costs $9,000 annually, offers more bells and whistles, but recommended the district start with the LT and upgrade at a future date if the additional features are needed and would be utilized.

The board, which will receive training on how to use the new system, approved the LT version.

Bell said board members will be able to look up policy and countless other information while discussing issues at meetings.

“It’s very user-friendly,” she stressed, adding board members will be able to access the information from any mobile device, at any time.

The general public also will have access, Bell said.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said board members can utilize their own personal device, such as a laptop or iPad, during the meetings or the district will provide one. The district will not purchase devices, but use equipment it already has.

VanLeer said this new electronic management system for the board goes hand-in-hand with the district’s much broader technology initiative for students and staff. A focus group has been meeting to develop and implement a plan for a 1:1 (one student to one tablet/laptop) type of program.

The superintendent told The Missourian she’s excited about moving toward a paperless environment for the school board.

“Really it’s long overdue,” she said. “School boards today need to operate efficiently and need information in a timely, consistent fashion.”

During the transition, VanLeer said some printed board packets will be available until board members feel comfortable with the new system.

“We hope for this to be functional by January,” she added.

VanLeer noted several board members already are very proficient using some type of mobile device, while others will need the training. School board President Scott Byrne uses his personal laptop at all meetings, as does VanLeer and several other administrators.

“You’re seeing more and more use of wireless devices at doctor’s offices, hospitals, everywhere, and it’s time we do it too,” she said.