The very thing that makes Google Apps so appealing worries some parents: They don't want Google or anyone outside the district to have access to their children's information.

As more Oregon schools roll out Google’s free suite of productivity software this fall, they’re also trying to educate parents and ease concerns about privacy.

Oregon was the first state to sign up for Google Apps for Education in 2010 and make it available to K-12 school districts. The free software allows students to access their class work from home, the library, or anywhere they have internet access.

But the very thing that makes Google Apps so accessible and appealing worries some parents: They don’t want Google or anyone outside the district to have access to their children’s private information.

Nearly 50 of Oregon’s 197 school districts have signed up for Google Apps for Education, according to the Oregon Department of Education.

“They are tools to help student performance and engagement, to help them with success in school, to prepare them for college and life,” said Steve Nelson, chief IT strategist for the Oregon Department of Education.

Most districts plan to roll out the program this school year and have started sending home permission slips. Google requires students under 18 have parental permission.

In the Portland area, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Centennial, Gresham-Barlow, North Clackamas, Tigard-Tualatin, and the Northwest Regional Education Service District have signed up.

Portland Public Schools is working on its own with Microsoft Live@edu, which is similar to Google Apps but more compatible with Portland’s already existing software, said Nick Jwayad, chief information officer for the district.

The Oregon Department of Education will work with Microsoft to make Live@edu available to all schools as well, Nelson said.

Privacy and access issues

It took 16 months to negotiate an agreement with Google, which ensures everything aligns with federal education student privacy laws and student safety guidelines, Nelson said.