test_2wqehf, Author at Registration Gateway

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, to 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.

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