But now parents can keep an "i" on the situation.
The school district this week premiered iParent, software that lets parents monitor their children's attendance, discipline records, class schedule and quarterly grades over the Internet.
Right now, the program is available to parents of high school students. Middle school students will be added to the system this week.
About 50 parents of high school students have already signed up for the program, said Timothy Hill, director of mathematics and computer technology for the district. The program has a few technical issues to work out - for some reason photos of students aren't showing up - but for the most part, it's working, Hill said.
"I even had one parent who didn't realize her youngster had been suspended," Hill said.
Parents have to submit information about themselves and their children in order to be approved for the program. Hill and other staff then ensure all the information is accurate before approving an account. One student tried to sign up, but was denied.
Hill said checking each detail to be sure only the parent of a student is viewing that student's record is "labor intensive" but necessary for security and privacy.
"We had one parent sign in as 'aa,' " Hill said. "I don't know who 'aa' is. We denied him. He tried as 'aa' again. We denied him."
Discipline and attendance records are available in real time. Term grades are also posted, but the program doesn't log homework assignments, individual tests or standardized test scores.
"Parents should know that," Hill said. "Forget the Big Brother. It's not everything."
About 50 school districts in Massachusetts use the software that supports iParent. Methuen in the next few years will begin using iStaff, which keeps information on teacher degree status, certifications, salary and classes.
Karen Silva, an assistant in Hill's office who has children at Methuen High School, showed how something as simple as viewing a student's schedule online can be beneficial to a parent.
"Every morning I could look and say, 'Get ready for what you have today,'" Silva said. She also keeps track of her son's attendance.
"If I'm on top of my game, I'll know what day he's out," she said.
The program also includes student biographical information, some of which, Hill admitted, is incorrect. He's hoping making that information available to parents will help clear up those errors.
Hill said he hopes the program will help parents feel more in touch with the school district and with their children's teachers. Attempts to make student information available to parents online are underway elsewhere in the Merrimack Valley. Andover High School is searching for a new online service after deciding its current one, Edline, wasn't user-friendly enough. That was leading some teachers not to upload information.
Methuen parents wishing to register on iParent can sign up at the school district home page, http://www.methuen.k12.ma.us. Parents will need to have their child's student identification number and a recent-edition Web browser. Currently, only parents of high school students can sign up.