District 99 purchases 24-hour tutoring program Paper


Anytime, anywhere: Paper provides around the clock support for students (Graphic via Paper)

Anthony Marsicano, Opinion Editor

District 99 sent out an automated email from a company called Paper Jan. 4. The email introduced Paper as a resource for homework help and writing feedback and included instructions for logging into the website. 

According to the company’s website, Paper is an Educational Support System (ESS) that provides schools and districts with a platform to support personalized learning. Students can receive instant, live help from trained educators around the clock. These educators are employed and trained by Paper, and can offer assistance speaking in English, Spanish and French. The program is chat-based, meaning that all communication between students and tutors is done by typing messages; there is no face-to-face or video interaction at all. 

Paper’s dashboard includes an “Ask a Tutor” bar where questions are typed out and entered. Students who may learn better visually can take advantage of a whiteboard feature as well as the option to upload files and images. From here, the program will recognize the subject and connect students with an educator from that field. According to Paper, its tutors provide assistance in 200 different topics over 25 subjects

If students have an essay they would like input on, they can upload the document as a PDF file. Then, a tutor who specifies in English will respond with feedback and an annotated copy of the essay. Paper offers essay feedback within 24 hours of submission, but this number is subject to change depending on demand.

Paper was proposed during the most recent District 99 School Board meeting Dec 14. The entire meeting was conducted over Zoom and streamed live on YouTube. Associate Superintendent Gina Ziccardi presented the proposal and explained how one of the main reasons for purchasing Paper was that a district survey found that students were not taking advantage of teachers’ scheduled office hours and resource periods.

“One thing I’ve learned over the years is that students work at very different paces, starting their homework at all different times throughout the day, and even early in the morning,” Ziccardi said. “We want to support students and make it accessible when they need it.” 

The student resource period from 11-11:30 a.m. remains in the current schedule as it was last semester and teachers still have office hours as they did last semester. Even if students fully return to school within the next year, they will still have access to the program.

The district purchased Paper through June 4, 2021 with the total cost amounting to $173,356.20. Until that date, students are able to use Paper around the clock every day of the year. This includes weekends, holidays, and during the summer. According to Ziccardi, a fraction of the total cost comes directly from taxpayer money.

“The majority of that cost is being paid through grant funds, not district funds,” Ziccardi said. “In other words, the District is not paying the majority of the cost for Paper but rather using grant funds to cover the majority of that cost.”