Max and Sabrina both attend excellent schools that have one thing in common: Their form systems are stuck in the 1950s. Before the start of every single school year, I fill out piles of student information and health forms.
Yesterday, I spent my commute to and from work huddled over forms. I'd say that 95 percent of the information I filled out was the same as the previous year. My kids had the same names and addresses! They had the same birth dates! And the same doctors! Their vaccines hadn't changed! Heck, they even had THE SAME PARENTS!
"Where do you think they store all the forms?" my friend Maryellen asked over lunch, as I complained about the time I've spent writing down information, sending forms to doctors to fill out and then tracking them down when they don't arrive. "Probably in filing cabinets!" she answered herself, and we both laughed. Sadly, she's probably right.
It's so old school.
The kids' schools are well aware of the invention of computers; each has their own website, where you can get info on classroom activities and upcoming events...and download forms to print and fill out by hand. Both schools are innovative in other ways. So what's up with the paperwork? It's not just the schools in my area; parents I know around the country complain about that annual dreaded ritual, The Filling Out Of The Forms.
Camps are now enabling parents to complete forms online. It's time for more schools to create online systems where parents can enter information, then refresh any necessary info year to year. Yes, the nurses would have to make sure the systems are secure and compliant with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the school equivalent of HIPAA. And yes, it would take effort and funding to get systems into place.
But then: How much effort would online info ultimately save school staffers? How much quicker could they access it? How many trees would be saved? And how much easier would this make parents' lives, especially ones of kids with special needs who already have just a few responsibilities (and forms!) on their plates? (JUST. A. FEW.)
After I finally finished Max's forms last night, powered by a glass of Pinot Grigio, I jotted a note to the nurse asking about an online form system; I'll be following up with her, and possibly the principal. I can't recall the last time I wrote a letter instead of an email, come to think of it, but I was in handwriting mode. Ack! The forms are making my brain revert! Next thing you know, I'm going to give up blogging and start writing a diary.
As you read this, parents somewhere are hunched over their desks or kitchen tables, pen in hand, wearily filling out school forms. Let's send them our sympathy—and press on for computerization.