The first year I worked in afterschool I learned many lessons the hard way. I thought I could get away with printing out attendance sheets 15 minutes before program starts, and often underestimated the administrative time that went into attendance tracking and billing. While I’ve realized no after school program is perfect, these afterschool sign in-out tips will help you create a more efficient and simple program that is nearly close to perfect.
1. Be Proactive
Some of the most helpful changes for afterschool sign in-out occur before the day even starts. Taking a few small steps early on will not only help alleviate stress, but create a smoother afterschool program:
- Print out attendance sheets well in advance– you never know when your printer will run out of ink or the power will go out.
- Assign Staff Responsibilities- having specific staff assigned to preparing, checking, and reviewing sign in-out records makes the whole process run smoother.
- Do not wait to audit your attendance sheets- I recommend looking over your afterschool sign in-out records every day. If you find that a parent forgot to sign out or wrote down the wrong time, you can catch these problems early on and stop them from recurring .
2. Keep it Simple
Making the sign in-out process as simple as possible eliminates mistakes and keeps parents happy. It’s really a “win-win” situation. Here are a few ways you can ensure your afterschool program is running as smoothly and easily as possible.
- Where do parents sign in-out? Place your sign in-out desk in an easily accessible location. If possible, have it in the same location the children are typically in, making the pickup process quick and effortless.
- Use a digital clock- If you place a digital clock next to the sign in-out location, you will avoid parents writing down the wrong time.
- Keep your binders neatly organized- Use tabs to keep your sign in-out sheets organized alphabetically. This makes it much easier for parents to find their child.
- Use monthly billing- Invoicing weekly is 4 times more work than doing it once a month . Move over to monthly invoicing so that you don’t have to revisit billing every week
- Avoid complicated billing rates- Tiered rates can make billing a nightmare. Having a flat hourly drop in rate makes billing much easier. Prefer to have families pre-pay? Ask your families to prepay for the entire month and they can use the after school program any number of times. There is no reason to make billing more complicated than it needs to be.
3. Use an afterschool sign in-out software
Many afterschool programs are still using paper sign in-out sheets and tedious manual billing methods. While this may work great for some smaller aftercare programs, for others it can cause a large amount of frustration. If you are facing any of the following problems, the use of technology may help in creating a more efficient and simplified afterschool program.
- Problem #1: Parents making mistakes during sign out
Ever had a parent sign on the wrong child’s line or write the wrong pickup time? Using an electronic system makes is virtually impossible for either of these problems to ever happen.
- Problem #2: Parents forgetting to sign out their child
It’s a busy time of the day. The parents are ready to rush out after picking up their child. With a sign in out software you can ensure compliance. Parents will receive notifications that confirm they signed out their child and Kinderlime will flag any missed sign-out entries.
- Problem #3: Too much time spent calculating attendance drop-in hours
Your sign in-out sheets are organized, but now you have to go through and calculate the hours, days, or weeks of attendance. The process can take forever! An afterschool management software will do all the auditing, calculating and billing for you, so you have more time to do whatever your heart desires.
- Problem #4: Sign in-out process taking too long for parents
Ever had a long line of angry parents waiting to sign out their child? When parents have to flip through attendance sheets, and find their child, things can take awhile. We have found that signing in-out on an app takes only a few seconds.
4. Have a backup plan
It would be nice if everything always went as planned, but life is often unpredictable. The best thing we can do is prepare ourselves for the speedbumps we know may happen once in awhile.
- A staff member calls out sick
You may be prepared to handle one of your staff calling out sick, but what if 2, 3 or 4 staff members aren’t able to work for the day. While we hope for your sanity that days like this don’t happen too often, it is best to have a plan in place if the situation arises.
We suggest having a back up staff member that can step in if needed. However, if this is not feasible, try using a service like ChildCare Careers. You can find substitute staff on-demand when you are in a bind. Try to have your regular, experienced staff member near your sign in-out location. Parents like to see a familiar face, and your year round staff knows how the process works best.
We encourage you not to wait until the last minute to print out your attendance sheets or charge your walkie talkies and tablets. Power outages and printer failures are unpredictable, and you don’t want to be stuck in a sticky situation.
- A classroom is unavailable
You can typically plan on having certain spaces available during afterschool hours, but what if your usual sign in-out location is needed for an event, or is under construction? Whatever the reason, you may not always have certain spaces available to you.
Create a plan on what to do, and where to move your children or afterschool sign in-out location. Be sure to also communicate as best as possible with parents on any changes. We suggest sending out a text blasts to inform parents of any changes of sign in-out location and putting up a sign to help guide parents.
5. Communicate Expectations with parents:
- Teach sign in policies early on
The best time to set and explain expectations is at the beginning of the school year. During the first month of school, train your staff to watch and guide parents through the sign in process. This is a great way to eliminate parent mistakes before they even start, and sets the expectations for the school year.
- Parents STILL not following procedures?
Are parents still forgetting to sign their child out, constantly picking their child up late, or never telling you when the student will be absent?
Monetary consequences may not be the most popular choice with parents, but they do work! Parents are much less likely to forget the procedures you have in place when there is money involved.
- Explain the reasoning behind your madness
We tell parents to please write the time clearly, and we charge them fees for missed sign outs. From a parent’s perspective it may seem like we are being “critical” and “picky.”
It’s helpful for parents to understand that it’s a legal requirement, and helps ensure their children’s safety. Also be sure your staff knows why these policies are in place, as it will help them ensure parents are writing clearly and not forgetting to sign out.
For more afterschool sign in-out simplification tips, or to learn more about how Kinderlime can help you manage afterschool paperwork and billing, give us a call today! We would be more than happy to talk with you about creating a simpler and more efficient afterschool program.