Newton Public School Grants Students Access to Gmails

by Shiv Sawhney, News Reporter & Preethika Vemula, News Editor
graphic by Emily Zhang

Students were granted access to emails through their Newton Public Schools (NPS) Google accounts on April 14. Students can contact both administration and other students within the NPS system, a feature not seen in Schoology.  

Instructional Technology (IT) specialist Brian Hammel said the district initially planned to introduce student emails during the 2020-21 school year.

“Once schools were closed, and we had the idea that they would be closed for an extended period of time, we escalated the date for turning on Gmail for students,” he said.

The emails are automatically linked to students’ Aspen and Schoology accounts, and the platform allows teachers to send group emails to students, Hammel said. The emails are archived and saved as a record, allowing NPS to monitor students’ messages, he said. 

“A classroom teacher could go into Aspen and send a message to all of their students,” he said. “Could they do that in Schoology? Sure. But Gmail is archived and there’s a record of it at the Ed Center. That’s something that Schoology is not able to provide for us.”

IT Specialist Katie Collins said the emails are permanent and were also implemented at the elementary and middle school levels, where she said they are as much for the parents as they are for the students. 

“At the elementary level, it’s a helpful organization piece for the parents. They [are] dealing with their own emails and then getting two or three sets from teachers,” Collins said. “It might help to keep it organized if they’re also sending it to their student emails.”

Assistant Principal Christopher Hardiman said the creation of student emails allows the administration and the IT department to monitor students’ messaging, helping students stay safe. 

“The school is able to filter out inappropriate messaging,” he said. “If we allowed students to use their personal Gmail account, where you’re more open to hacking, spam or inappropriate stuff, the filtering isn’t as good.”

Sophomore senator Brendan Weissel said he agrees that the email system is superior to  Schoology messaging, as its platform is more intuitive.

“Email is a more straightforward, natural, fluid way to do [messaging],” he said. “[It’s] a way that I would say many students are more used to using and is similar to texting, whereas the Schoology interface is more complicated.”

Weissel also said that emailing teachers ensures a faster response time.

 “The emails are a good way to have students contact teachers one-on-one instead of trying to use personal emails or use Schoology messages, where sometimes teachers don’t get the messages or it takes like three weeks for them to respond,” he said.

Junior Anais Mobarak said she does not find use in opening the email system for students.

“I haven’t used my email at all, and the only emails I get are from Schoology,” she said.

Guidance counselor Hae-Kyung Choi said that she sees the emails as a positive change, though she understands that it will take time for students to adjust.

“Students are very used to Schoology, but hopefully with some time students [will] acclimate to the new Gmails, [and] it will be a more effective way to communicate.”