Hundreds of hourly employees in a Lehigh County school district will soon be logging their hours electronically rather than manually, thanks in part to the new health-care law.

The Northwestern Lehigh School Board signed off on a recommendation Wednesday night to spend up to $32,782 on software, licenses and time clocks from TimeClocks Plus.

The move is being made in part because having custodians, bus drivers, teaching assistants and cafeteria workers clock in and out electronically is more efficient for them than district staffers who now must process their daily time sheets, said business administrator Leslie Frisbie.

But, Frisbie noted, it will also help the district comply with the federal Affordable Care Act that takes effect Jan. 1 by monitoring in real time how many hours employees are working, adding that the new law requires employers to offer health care to workers who put in 30 hours or more a week.

Frisbie said the district would likely begin using the new timekeeping system on a test basis in October and that it would be fully operational by the end of the 2013-14 school year.

About 300 workers will be affected, she added.

TimeClocks Plus will be paid $17,049 for software and licenses and to set up the system; $1,544 for each of the two to eight clocks the district may need, and $3,204 annually for a maintenance agreement, should the district decide it wants one, Frisbie said.

Phillip Toll, of Weisenberg Township, told the board Frisbie should insist that TimeClocks Plus provide written assurance that the company would correct any problems if TimeClocks' software damages the district's servers.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to accept a five-year contract with Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21 for its child abuse recognition and tracking software.

The software will help the district comply with a state law requiring three hours of training for every school employee every five years, said Supt. Dr. Mary Anne Wright.

The district will be able to insert its own procedures and policies into the software, Wright pointed out.

The district will pay $1,200 for the software in the 2013-14 school year, and $500 in each of the remaining four years of the contract.