Have you ever looked at the number of things that need to be signed for a field trip? Most people know about permission slips, but what about the other administrative tasks? In addition to permission slips, you have to also consider contracts, agreements with the locations, bus rentals, and more. Most, if not all, of these agreements, are still done on paper. However, it’s 2021, and all of this could become a digital file. Electronic signatures would make things easier for all parties involved, especially the school secretaries and teachers who have to constantly keep a checklist of all the various papers and tasks.
Let’s look at one of the most obvious, and let’s be honest, headache-inducing parts of field trips: getting all of those permission slips home, signed, and then turned back into the teacher. Teachers have to rely on the student to get the paper home and hand it to their parents. Not all parents go through their child’s folder when they get home, which places this responsibility solely on the child. For older students, this is okay, but what about the early elementary children? They’re expected to have this responsibility at such a young age.
Once the parent sees it, who’s responsible for ensuring it’s handed in on time? The student? The teacher? Teachers have so much on their minds at any given moment. Using electronic signatures for field trips would alleviate this stress and bring more enjoyment to a trip. The administration could email the forms to the parents and keep an electronic record of who has signed off. There would be less of a paper trail, creating a more negligible probability that slips and sometimes money gets lost from one person to another. Once the permission slip makes it to the teacher, it has to be transported to the main office, usually by a student designated as the teacher helper at that time.
The secretaries in the office wouldn’t have to keep tabs on all the papers if they were electronic. Once a parent signs off, they would have the option to pay by credit/debit card or check directly on the website. This would enable a single source for the office staff to check and see very quickly who has, and has not, signed off on the forms and paid their fees.
During The Field Trips
Teachers usually have to carry these permission slips with them at all times while on a field trip for multiple reasons: safety, security, and liability. How much easier would it be to have all information readily accessible via their phone or tablet? I understand the internet is not always available, but they could download a file to their device to access whenever. Who doesn’t have their phone within arms’ reach nowadays? Electronic signatures from parents and guardians would make this process much more feasible.
Less physical paperwork equals less likelihood of the papers going missing. Look at it from a security and safety standpoint: those stacks of permission slips usually have student names and sometimes parents’ names on them. While it is just a name, this could cause some significant problems if it falls into the wrong hands, especially for younger students who may not have the best sense of strangers and the danger associated with them. Often these slips contain the school information, giving unsavory people more information than they should have.
Storage Of Papers
How long do the schools have to hold onto all of the paperwork? Much like any business that handles sensitive documents, they must keep this information somewhere for a certain period if it is ever needed. Some paperwork may be held at the school in a file room, while others may be sent to a district or state storage facility for the allotted time.
Wouldn’t electronic forms be so much simpler? A whole year of slips could potentially be kept on one flash drive, freeing up an exponential amount of space, not to mention the man-hours to track it. In addition, the ability to use electronic signatures for permission slips would severely reduce the number of papers used, trashed, stored, and lost.
A case can be made that digital permission slips and forms are more secure than their physical counterparts.
Electronic signatures would make things easier for all parties involved
Communication With All Parties
What if the location for the field trip requires copies of all of the permission slips before the event? Do they get mailed over? Does a teacher or staff member have to drive there and drop them off? What if the location isn’t close?
Many venues require signed paperwork before the field trip, outlining an agreement regarding finances and logistics between them and the school. This information typically has to be emailed or faxed back and forth. Digital paperwork would aid in all of these hurdles by reducing the time spent for all parties, from the planning stage to the execution of the field trip. The office staff could also use an electronic signature to sign off on all of these forms and move the planning process much quicker. In addition, no one would have to wait for papers to come over via fax or, even slower, regular postal mail.
Not Leaving A Child Out
What happens if the student doesn’t have their permission slip signed and turned in? Do they not get to go? Electronic signatures would give the teacher another way to ensure that every student gets to participate. A quick phone call to a parent and their signature could be provided instantly on a smart device, negating the need for paper slips. The opportunity to make these last-minute adjustments is crucial in ensuring that all students participate and learn from the field trip. The considerations listed make a strong case for going digital with field trip-related paperwork. While electronic signatures aren’t the quintessential element to ensuring a stress-free trip, switching to electronic would relieve an unnecessary burden for everyone involved.
So, I’m going ‘out on a limb’ here. Hopefully a parent of my previous students does not read this article. However, with that being said none of my students were harmed or were in any potential harm.
The Field Trip 101 checklist is to assist you in planning at a high level, and to help guide conversations to determine the particulars of the field trip, and ultimately save you and those around you time!
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