After yet another paper school notice came home crumpled and covered in squashed banana Sharlene Barnes, a Kaikoura-based mother from Christchurch, decided there must be a better way to simplify communication between herself and her children’s school community.

Back in the 2000s, when her children were in primary school, Sharlene realised that relying on her children to relay messages was perhaps not the best means of communication, and saw a gap in the market for a communication portal that integrated all facets of parent-teacher school administration. It wasn’t until her son introduced her to smartphone apps in 2012 that Sharlene envisaged the Skool Loop App.

“I realised that this was the technology I had been looking for to make my idea come to life,” says Sharlene, “I sketched how I wanted the app to look on paper, took it to app developers until I found someone who believed in my concept and helped create the Skool Loop App.”

The idea was straightforward– integrate wasteful paper notices, newsletters, permission slips, school calendars, and time-consuming phone call communication for absentee recording, reminders, and emergency notifications into an app. The result was the Skool Loop App – the parent-teacher communication app that is now being used by more than 600 schools in New Zealand, with more signing up each week.

The app has six core functions; absentee reporting, instant alerts, school contacts, synchronised school calendar, school notices, newsletters, and e-permission slip signing. It’s also been used in emergency situations to quickly alert parents to a crisis or event, such as power outages or weather-related incidents.

Absentee reporting used to be a matter of school office staff spending an hour each morning calling parents to confirm whether their child was supposed to be at school or not. Now parents can now report child absentees with a tap of the screen.

“I recognised that schools are often under-resourced and stretched on time and I didn’t want to add any time-consuming tasks or additional cost to schools, so the app is free to use.” says Sharlene.

In the day and age of the smartphone, schools are increasingly turning to app-based solutions for communicating with their parent community. Skool Loop joins a growing group of school-parent communication apps including MySchool Apps, School-links and Tiqbiz.

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