NYC School Pre-K and Kindergarten Registration in a COVID-19 World

The global pandemic has forced schools across America to close their doors, cease all physical activities, and move to modes of virtual operation and online learning in a short amount of time. While this was essential to maintain student and staff safety, now the new school year is approaching and New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) schools are in the midst of their Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten registration processes. This poses an additional, hefty challenge.

Following health guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NYCDOE mandated that all Pre-K and Kindergarten registrations be carried out online. This is pushing schools to leave behind traditional paper-based processes and find their own digital registration solutions as fast as possible.

The manual and paper-based nature of Pre-K and Kindergarten registration

NYCDOE Pre-K and Kindergarten registration processes are heavily reliant upon people (administrative staff) and paper-handling. Traditional school registration usually requires parents to complete paper forms and physically return them for processing. To get an understanding of the scale of traditional registration processes, the NYCDOE requires schools to fill out at least 17 forms per child.

Amongst these forms, parents need to provide emergency contact details, medical information, proof of identity and proof of residence. It can be a time-consuming process for parents to navigate. Mistakes, if made, require administrators to chase-up applicants and amend information supplied. This includes sending emails, making calls and asking parents to come into school once more. Not only is this a time-consuming process, it also costs a significant amount of money.

According to independent statistics compiled by Operoo, the average NYCDOE school spends over $45,000 per year on processing just the paper-based elements of school registrations.

A large part of this staggering cost can be attributed to the incredibly resource-intensive nature of these manual systems of processing, which require a huge team of administrators.

The challenge for schools is this: How can they modernise this convoluted, manual approach in order to streamline the process moving forward — to both satisfy health and safety requirements demanded by the current pandemic, as well as reduce costs over the long haul?

The impacts of COVID-19 on traditional registration processes

With the pandemic overwhelming NYC — and physical school activities out of the question for the foreseeable future — schools need to find alternate, socially distant, methods of Pre-K and Kindergarten registration.

Whilst the NYCDOE stipulated — in response to COVID-19 –that all schools needed to deploy digital modes of student registration, it did not provide clear instructions or a uniform system for doing so. Instead, schools have been left to their own devices to transform existing processes and offer online-only registration.

Whilst this lack of clarity and support has left many schools in a bind, traditional registration practices are unsafe and unworkable in the current environment.

Imagine the chaos: Amin staff would have to ask parents — attempting to return their children’s registration forms — to wait in a physical line for hours. Each parent would have to be invited in individually. They’d then riskily pass physical forms to the DOE employee, under specially erected plexiglass dividers, for manual assessment and processing. That DOE employee would then need to leave their desk, attempt to safely file the submitted forms in some sort of hazard compliant storage facility, thoroughly sanitise, then return to usher-in the next individual. What a mess.

The immense time and resources required to conduct such an exhaustive process would be unmanageable — never-mind the unacceptable health implications. And, ultimately, even after taking all those precautions, how can you guarantee the health and safety of both staff and parents under such circumstances?

Sensibly, the NYCDOE acknowledged that persisting with a manual paper-based system during the pandemic was unworkable, mandating that schools transition to online registration. The problem? They offered no guidance, standardized method or platform for implementing this new digital process.

So, the question remains: How do NYCDOE schools register incoming students, and then consider onboarding returning students, for the new school year?

How Operoo can help

Schools around the world have pivoted quickly to ensure students can access learning materials while in isolation. But, the same cannot be said for the digitization of administrative and operational resources and tasks. Some tools, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, offer ad-hoc collaboration and communications options for staff. However, such conferencing platforms don’t address specific workflow requirements demanded by complex school processes, such as student registration. This is where Operoo has stepped-in.

Operoo offers an automated system for distributing and collecting pre-built digital NYCDOE registration forms, removing the physical nature — and associated risks — of typical Pre-K and Kindergarten registration practices. Operoo forms can only be submitted once parents have completed the required fields, saving administrators time and money. So there’s no chasing missing paper forms and parents for inaccurate or incomplete information.

In addition, Operoo helps onboard students efficiently. For example, once the new year starts, registered and returning students can easily update their Blue Card emergency information. Furthermore, administrators have early access to student numbers and classroom sizes, helping them to accurately allocate sufficient resources and teachers for the new school year. Certainly, Operoo is not just a short-term fix to a traditionally protracted and costly registration process. It is a simple, effective and safe application for teachers, students and parents moving forward too.

Going digital is not just a short term fix

COVID-19 has shed light on the importance of digitizing and automating antiquated human-reliant school processes. Schools have the opportunity to transition to digital student registration, avoiding exposing its staff and community to unacceptable health risks now, while drastically reducing the amount of time and money typically spent on physical student registration processes in the long-term.

Where to next?

Read-up on how Maury County School District worked with Operoo to build and deploy a completely digital student registration process in just 8 days: ACCESS CASE STUDY >

Watch our ‘Preparing for a New School Year with Operoo’ webinar recording for more insights into how Operoo is helping NYC schools get ready for 2020 – 2021.