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Article – Permission Slip? Check your phone.

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/permission-slip-check-your-phone-301789291.html

Permission Click CEO Chris Johnson (left), with École R.H.G. Bonnycastle School principal Brad Burns, shows off his company’s online software for schools


Could an email get lost at the bottom of a backpack parents forgot to check?

Do teachers need to chase permission slips and gather their body weight in loonies and quarters when they organize field trips?

Not if their school has Permission Click.

Here’s how it works: A few days ago, a teacher at âcole R.H.G. Bonnycastle School in Richmond Heights got an idea to hold zumba classes after school in May, and out went an email – by that afternoon, parents had signed up their kids and some had volunteered to help. No paperwork, no headaches.

Permission Click, said principal Brad Burns, is all done online and simplifies the way schools and parents have communicated since, well, forever.

“It’s going to take away a lot of the burdens from schools,” he said. “The response from parents who use it, they love it.”

Permission Click is a Winnipeg technology startup based in Innovation Alley in the Exchange District, and it’s already in a dozen city schools here and in schools in the U.S.

Using Permission Click software and its own database, the school sends out emails to individual parents, indicating what’s planned and when, where the kids will go, whether there’s a cost, asking about allergies and anything else the organizers should know; parents fill it in online and send it back.

The privacy of the children is protected, Burns said, because only the school knows how to reach the parents: “Permission Click doesn’t have a database of the children in the school,” he pointed out.

Burns has spent many years watching teachers deal with two loonies taped to a permission slip, or teachers trying to track down parents who’ve never received the paperwork for a child’s activities.

“The teacher would hand in a zip-locked bag with 150 bucks (in coins), and a class list with check marks. That money would have to be deposited in the bank,” Burns said.

Money changes hands electronically, saving schools an enormous chore, said Burns.

“We’re like the last person using cheques. We need to get into the 21st century.”

Permission Click CEO Chris Johnson said he gets considerable interest from Winnipeg educators who are still doing their due diligence, particularly ensuring the child’s private information is secure.

“Holy smoke – did I underestimate the complexity of school districts” and the levels of bureaucracy, Johnson, a Charleswood resident, said with a laugh.

“I’m a technology nerd,” he said. “We want to build a world-class technology company in Winnipeg.”

Johnson said while the company is developing additional features that may involve a cost, a school’s only expense now is a small service fee if the activity requires parents to pay.

The software works just as well for community groups, churches and minor sports, he said.

If parents don’t use or can’t afford technology, schools can print out written forms to go home the old-fashioned way.

Pembina Trails School Division superintendent Ted Fransen said Bonnycastle is one of six Pembina Trails schools already using Permission Click, and more are likely.

“Our policy expected parents to provide a signed piece of paper,” said Fransen, but once it was certain the system is secure, the division now encourages using technology “that makes parents lives easier.”

Johnson said Permission Click could have prevented the recent alleged theft of $24,000 from a lunch program at Joseph Teres School, provided more than one adult was monitoring the online account – every payment, every payout, would be there with a single click.

When schools use Permission Click for handling money, Burns said, “It’s all documented out, who paid, what did they pay for.”

Parents can even translate the school’s email into a language other than English, respond in the language of their choice, and the system translates it all back into English.

Or, if parents choose to remain old-school, they can dig down to the bottom of the backpack every day to see what crucial information is scrunched beneath the mouldy gym socks and week-old lunch scraps.

By nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca.  Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 30, 2015 A6

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