It takes Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school officials about six weeks to build a master schedule for their students. 

Principals, data managers and counselors work together using paper and pencil to create this schedule. But just because it’s completed, doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

Chief Human Resources Officer Leslie Alexander says the district spent about $180,000 last year covering the 800 extra hours guidance counselors worked to correct scheduling conflicts.

“Our counselors are great at scheduling – that is not why they went to school," Alexander said. "They want to be working with kids, not really cleaning up schedules all summer long.”

She says the district hopes to improve this process with a new software called Cardonex. The program allows users to easily test out multiple versions of the schedule and identify issues, like overwhelming class sizes, early on. 

Alexander says it should also help give more students the courses they want, improve scheduling students with disabilities, and free up staff to do more meaningful work.

“I think it would be better for them to be working on analyzing students’ schedules, you know, looking to see who didn't maybe pass a class in the spring semester, who needs to be enrolled in a class so that they stay on track for graduation," she said. "Maybe looking at the makeup of our classes and saying, ‘You know what? This class is not diverse. We really need to look at who's enrolled in this course.’”

The district initially proposed a three-year contract to use the program, but a few school board members expressed concerns with that commitment before seeing results. The board instead unanimously approved a one-year contract.

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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