People waiting in line while holding paper in their hands online registrations for schools

This is How Online Registrations will Transform Your School

When it comes to school administration, registrations can be one of the most chaotic times of the year.

The sheer amount of information being received is overwhelming in its own right, especially when the majority of that data is accurate and contains sensitive information about the students themselves.

Online registrations are a game changer for school systems, offering a digitized, streamlined process for enrolling students in your school.

Using an online system means less waste, more accurate data, and happier parents, students, and administrators, and in this post, we’ll show you how.

Less Waste of Resources 

When registrations are submitted and processed online, there’s an enormous burden lifted off the shoulders of your administrators that prevents a massive waste of resources — including time.

Online registrations can be submitted from anywhere, so you don’t need staff members on-hand to accept and process the forms.

This saves your staff time, and it saves you money. You can either reduce the number of hours that your staff works, or allocate those hours to more valuable and essential tasks.

There’s no need to file physical paperwork, freeing up an enormous amount of space in the school and reducing the carbon footprint of your school.

When you consider that around $200k is spent on paper by the average school annually (costing around $3-4k per month for paper, ink, and toner), this is an enormous cost savings.

It’s estimated that 28 million sheets of paper are used by the average school district annually, so being able to cut down on even a small percentage of can go a long way to making your school a little more eco-friendly, too. 

More Accurate Student Data 

Having accurate, reliable information on all of your students is important. Health or safety concerns are an issue once you factor in things like…

  • Updated vaccination records;
  • Learning disabilities that require additional needs;
  • Emergency contact information;
  • Student transportation information.

With online registrations, student data is more accurate. Parents submit student information directly online. Once a year, parents verify or update the data. That’s it!

Parents are much more likely to keep these online forms updated and to do so in a timely manner than physical paperwork, which is easily lost before it ever reaches the parent in the first place.

And, since parents have access to the system in real-time to update any information, you won’t have people waiting until the beginning of a new year to come in to update the paperwork.

It’s fast, easy, and convenient for everyone involved.

Online Registrations = Happier Parents

We’re all busy, but parents really have their hands full. Many are trying to balance their careers, households, social lives, and parenting all in one.

If something is inconvenient, it falls to the bottom of the to-do list. It’s a nuisance for parents to dredge up time to make a special trip to the school to update paperwork or submit registration information. They’ve just got too much on their plates.

Online registrations result in happier parents. They’re able to complete the forms at home (or wherever) and at a time that’s convenient for them (read: after the kids go to bed at 8!). This ensures registrations are submitted before the deadline.

When the registration process is online, it’s much easier for parents to fit it into their schedule.

An added bonus: Parents have immediate control and access over their child’s records. Logging in and keeping records up-to-date is a non-issue with online registrations.

More Streamlined Process for Administrators

You want parents to be happy, but it’s even more important for school administrators to be happy! Online registrations streamline the process for administrators like nothing else will.

Your staff has instant access to the database to see who has registered. This provides ample opportunity to reach out to those who still need to submit the forms.

Student information is easy to access, like which students have special needs. Easily misplaced or incorrectly filed information is accessed without rifling through filing cabinets or chasing down paperwork.

To sweeten the deal even more, admins have  access to documents remotely even if they aren’t in the office. This allows staff to take their work home with them when needed.

Ability to Translate Documents into Different Languages

Something goes overlooked in school systems is that fact that not all parents are native English speakers.

In fact, a recent survey from Pew Research Center found that 9.5% of students in the United States take English learning classes, meaning that their parents may not be fluent or may also be learners, too. 

Online registration software like Registration Gateway offers these parents the ability to translate documents into the language they’re most comfortable speaking. 

The paperwork becomes instantly more accessible, and once submitted, administrators can  translate it back into the language they speak.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved, including the students. They deserve equal footing when it comes to their education.

Information Security and Data Control

Unfortunately, paper registrations aren’t the most secure option. These forms are easily  misplaced or lost, both on the way to the school and even within the school itself. 

Accidents happen, as hard as we may try to avoid them. The result is sensitive student information — including social security numbers, health records, and school performance — becoming vulnerable to security risks.

Digitized school records require a designated login that’s protected by a password, so only those with clearance have access to the files.

Sensitive information is simply more secure in digital form than on paper. It doesn’t hurt that digital forms are difficult to damage or corrupt; if the school caught fire, the paper registrations would burn. And a break-in could result in the files being stolen outright.

And yet, in either of those scenarios, digital data is left untouched.

Takeaway

School administrators and parents alike have so much to keep up with that streamlining important processes like registration is a solid choice.

Online registrations are easy to use, convenient, and save money by reducing the time and resources needed to take in and accept the information.

Everyone’s lives improve from the use of online registrations. And the students themselves benefit from having data that’s up-to-day, secure, and accessible by those who need it to serve them best.

Interested in learning more about how you can start setting up an online registration system for your school? See what we can do for you here


Woman's hands typing on a laptop keyboard with sun shining in background shining a light on online registrations white paper free download cta

What does your school look like when the dust settles after registration?

Let’s face it – going back to school is a drag for everyone involved. Kids whine, parents have to replace all the outgrown school clothes and fill out all the paperwork, but the school staff have it worst of all – they’re left with the kids still sluggishly getting back into their school routine AND the mass amounts of documentation that comes with them. Registration packets may seem easy from the parents’ point of view, but registrars must tap into their inner cryptologists to decipher thousands of different handwritings, make calls to summon parents who left blanks in their paperwork, and then delegate all the paperwork to the proper person or file without losing a single sheet of paper. And that’s not even the half of it.

For most school districts, school choice is decided by a complicated set of factors, not just the potential students’ residential addresses. Economic status, special or gifted education needs, older siblings already assigned to a specific building – all these reasons and more can be used to assign students to the proper building within a district. This can be a slow, tedious, error-riddled process during registration time, because secretaries and registrars must work as fast as possible to make sure every student has a seat in their school on the quickly approaching first day. Throw in all the parents who register their kids on the last acceptable day and you’ve got utter chaos.

Once the registration information has been given and the students have been delegated to their proper buildings, those enrollment documents still have a long way to go before they can rest in their folders back in the main office. Copies of medical information must be made for the nurse, who must then relay health information to cafeteria staff, athletic staff, and to specific teachers. Address information must be given to transportation, and bus routes must be made quickly and with the utmost efficiency. Teachers and aides must be given student information pertaining to any specific needs of the children under their supervision.

After the chaos of registration is over, and all the students have a seat on their bus, in their classroom, and away from any allergens in the lunchroom, the documents must be sorted into their proper homes, usually within large file cabinets near the secretary (who may be looking a little too weary for just the first day of school).

Intervention Time.

Schools using a paper-based system have become very used to the whirlwind of tasks that comes right before the onset of a new school year, but there will always be mistakes. Parents will always leave blanks on forms, secretaries will always make typos when translating parent handwriting, and paper will always tear or go missing.

So it’s time for an intervention. It’s 2016 – it’s time to go digital. There are now highly sophisticated software solutions that allow technology to handle all student data from registration information, to automation of school choice decisions, to storage of student information in an easily accessible yet intensely secure digital warehouse.

It’s too accessible and secure not to switch to digital document storing, just ask the East Baton Rouge School Parish System, who just last year had a case of confidential student files stolenby an employee and hidden for over a year – some files are still missing. It’s too inconvenient for staff not to allow parents to register their children for school online (and the parents won’t complain, either), just ask the registration staff from Millburn Township Public Schools, who have eliminated months of staff effort and manual data entry in preparing for student registration by implementing Registration Gateway. It’s too simple and honest not to ensure the fairness and equality of a school lottery process using technology, just ask the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Advocates, who just this month have flagged 253 charter schools for using discriminatory admissions processes.

How can software solutions help with these processes?

Online portals can allow parents to enter registration information, including school choice preferences, which immediately becomes available for review by the secretary at the office. With thorough digital processes, parents cannot move on to the next phase of registration without filling in all information deemed necessary by the school. Handbooks can even be scanned and made available during this process, saving a few trees and ensuring that parents must go through every page and accept the school’s terms and conditions. This saves a ton of money in paper and printing costs for school districts and simultaneously gathers the signed contracts from the parents. This is just one example of the flexibility of new digital record technology. What sets certain solutions apart from cookie-cutter digital forms is whether or not this information can flow directly into the SIS.

As aforementioned, each school district has a unique way of setting the rules for their student lottery. This may be to ensure that bus routes are as efficient as possible, or to make sure that each building within a district has the same amount of students receiving free and reduced lunch. School choice automating software uses algorithms to take a district’s specific rules and apply them fairly to students entering the lottery. It assigns a “weight” to each student measured by the factors determined by the school, and this allows the system to decide in which building the student should be assigned. This prevents parents from crying foul play if their child doesn’t get their first choice. It also prevents school personnel from tampering with the fairness of the process.

Finally, record-keeping software can provide a digital warehouse where each student’s file lives – saving a lot of space in the office previously inhabited by filing cabinets. It stores every document within the system, from the photocopy of the guardian’s ID card to the photo waiver that needs signing in order to take pictures of the kids during school. In short, every piece of data that has been in paper form – report cards, detention slips, hearing and vision tests – can now be stored online. This means that piece of paper with Johnny’s allergies – the one that went from doctor to parent to secretary to school nurse to cafeteria staff to teacher and back to the file – has simply been online the whole time. No photocopying, no lost documents, no liability.

There are a thousand reasons to go digital, but only one solution to all these issues – and that would be the Gateway Suite.

"expired" reads a timer

The Smart Way to Track Expiration Dates

There’s only one feeling worse than a looming deadline, and that’s forgetting about it entirely. The repercussions of missing an expiration date can be as innocent as that unsuspecting sip of sour milk, or as dangerous as trying to manage tens of thousands of vaccinations. Schools in Maryland are taking their first attempt at reigning in this problem. 3,800 unvaccinated children may have to leave Baltimore County School District until their vaccinations are verified by the school. When that deadline hits, the issue isn’t exactly resolved, at least not for the students who will get to stay in school. Their “deadline” simply gets pushed back to when their vaccination expires. These types of deadlines must continue to be monitored attentively, which brings us to the real issue: the hassle of managing the expiration and mandatory renewals within a school district.

To make an example of what is transpiring in Baltimore, let’s delve into their situation. Schools all over Maryland are barring children without proof of vaccination from entering public school districts, which means monitoring deadlines for both parents and school staff. In order to make sure these children don’t become oversights to school administration, vigilant tracking of medical records and vaccination expiration dates is not only necessary but crucial. Vaccinations are just one example of important deadlines of which school districts must be wary, which is why new techniques of monitoring expiration dates should be explained and available to school districts across the country.

It’s more complicated than it sounds.

The tricky part about vaccination expirations is that every student (and employee, for that matter) has a different date of expiration – and often, this means a different date of expiration for each individual vaccine as well. It is incredibly difficult, if not nearly impossible, for a school district’s team of nurses and secretaries to stay on top of five or more different expiration days for each member of the student body. This is almost exactly the case with employee and volunteer clearance expiration dates. In states like Pennsylvania, where adults with access to students need four separate clearances (Acts 24, 34, 136, and 151) and a current background check, school administration runs into the same cyclical dilemma of notifying personnel of the demand for updated documentation, resetting expiration dates for those who provide said documentation, or executing proper expulsion from campus.

There are a few key steps that a school district needs to take in order to keep kids safe from disease exposure and unauthorized adults: accurate tracking of all clearance and vaccination dates, significant forewarning to parents, volunteers or employees of their impending deadlines, timely collection of updated student, volunteer and employee records, and attentive removal of certain students or personnel on their expiration dates, should the parent or staff member not provide the necessary documentation. That’s one full datebook for the school nurses and administrators.

Super complicated, right? Let’s put it in perspective.

Let’s create a more tangible example of this problem: School X, a part of School District Y, has 1,000 students. Each student has a medical record showing, or not showing, proof of 5 separate vaccinations. Each student has a different expiration date for each vaccination. School X’s 2 nurses and 4 secretaries use a calendar and a spreadsheet to keep track of the students’ expiries. There are 5,000 different expiration dates, with three dates preceding the ultimate expiry on which they must send a request for an updated medical record from the student guardians. That’s a total of 15,000 dates, and our imaginary school is on the small side. It gets even more complicated when you realize that parents who respond after the first or second date need the subsequent notice dates removed from the calendar. And it goes without saying, but can easily be forgotten – these expiration dates for security clearance and vaccination records never truly expire, with the exception of permanent expulsion, graduation, or death – they only get pushed back and require more rounds of record requests.

A complex problem needs a complex solution

The simple way to stay on top of expiries is to create calendar notifications within a computer system as soon as official records are received by the school. This is a tedious, drawn-out task, which means human error abound. However, the major problem with a simple digital calendar or spreadsheet solution is the lack of forewarning for these upcoming dates. The only date these simple applications really help to track is the date of ultimate action – the day that student or employee must be removed until an updated record is received. If a school district really wants to stick with the simple solutions, then dates to notify parents and employees (often a first, second, and third warning) must be marked on the calendar or spreadsheet as well.

Instead of struggling to track the mountain of expiration dates constantly on the horizon, more complex solutions to record-tracking are available for this exact purpose. Paradoxically, the more complex your software solution is, the simpler the responsibilities of the humans operating it become. Record-tracking software can more efficiently store each and every expiration date, for students and for volunteer and employee clearance expirations. Furthermore, record requests for school personnel or parents can be automated to send on the appropriate day before the deadline. Notifications can also be automated to remind the school employee that the request must be sent out. Thus the task of deadline-monitoring becomes less of a mind-boggling pile of student and employee records and more of basic attentiveness to the record-tracking software, with the same vigilance of checking one’s e-mail inbox every day. In order to be more proactive about upcoming expiries, administrators, nurses, or other permitted employees can view the expiration dates of highest concern exclusively so that they can be dealt with in the clearest manner possible.

Registration Gateway