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How one LA-based PK-8 school automated front office tasks leading to improved security, dismissal, and communication.

Until recently, the day-to-day function of Turning Point School went through the bustling hub of the school’s front desk. Absence notifications, late arrivals, early dismissals, visitor sign-ins – all critical activities were handled and processed by the front desk staff. According to Courtney Baker, the Assistant Head of School for External Affairs at the 300-student school, front desk operations were just manageable enough — until they weren’t. 

In 2020, when in-person learning was paused for more than a year, Turning Point lost their front desk role. When in-person learning returned, funding for the role did not.

Did chaos ensue? No.

Instead, Courtney and the Turning Point Team found a technology solution in SchoolPass that improved safety, student movement, visitor management, and parent convenience. The front desk role is now an outreach of the school’s community engagement team, solely devoted to providing one-on-one personal engagement with prospective parents and other school visitors while their SchoolPass system quietly takes care of the safety and operational management of the school.

And one of the best parts about Turning Point’s SchoolPass solution? In Courtney’s own words, “SchoolPass never takes a sick day.”

A 24/7/365 Front Office

Like many schools, Turning Point School in the greater Los Angeles area had a designated front desk staff member to manage visitors, take parent phone calls, and communicate any arrival or dismissal changes to the necessary staff. If there were any schedule changes, the human at the front desk had to relay that message to all stakeholders. The pandemic led to the loss of that role at the school.

Now with SchoolPass, parents are empowered to update attendance, arrival, and dismissal changes at the touch of a finger within the SchoolPass App. 

“When we started to bring students back, we had immediate issues. As we no longer had a dedicated front desk role, there was nobody to manage all of those important tasks that are so vital to the school’s day to day operations,” Courtney explains.

But once SchoolPass was implemented, it was able to fill in those operational gaps, allow parents to communicate with the school easily, and give teachers the time to focus on what’s really important – educating students in the classroom.

Turning Point parents can make attendance and dismissal changes, authorize pickups, and manage after-school attendance all within the SchoolPass mobile app. Parent changes in the app are automatically merged into the attendance dashboard. Hand-written notes, phone calls, emails, and voicemails are things of the past. 

“If a parent is up at 3 am with a sick child and they want to indicate their student will be absent, they can just submit it on the app then-and-there. We know before students even start to arrive in the morning who will be absent that day. That alone has been invaluable for us.”

Filling In Gaps For Campus Safety 

School safety is on everyone’s mind these days with much of the focus on preventing or mitigating campus intruders. Turning Point School was no different; they knew that their campus security operations had room for improvement.  A robust visitor screening solution is a critical building block in enhancing campus security, and ultimately boosting student safety.

Before SchoolPass, when a visitor would come to campus, the school’s security officer would tell them where to park and point them to the front entrance. If the front desk person had stepped out or didn’t have eyes on the front door that individual could have easily walked right past the front desk. 

Now, the Turning Point campus is much more secure. “Before the visitor even steps foot into the building, they’ve had their license plates scanned, they’ve checked in, we can run visitors against a sex offender list, and we can print out a name tag which has their name and the name of the person their visitor – and now we even have a process where the visitor can come meet them at the front desk.”

A Dismissal Solution That No Longer Stops Traffic 

As an urban school campus, an efficiently run arrival and dismissal were critical. The school’s carpool area has a short distance from the entrance to the exit gate, and they’re located just off of a very busy street. If the carpool line ever backed up it would actually cause traffic and become a city safety issue. Courtney and her team knew there was an operational need to speed up this process.  

Turning Point can now easily manage traffic and safety on its campus. The school has integrated SchoolPass’ automated license plate recognition (ALPR) cameras and artificial intelligence into its campus operations to automate traffic management and safety.

“Before SchoolPass we used walkie-talkies to communicate when parents had arrived, and with all the various dismissal times, there was a two-hour period in the day where the walkie-talkies were chattering non-stop. Sometimes the walkie-talkie traffic was so non-stop that administrators resorted to verbally calling students to the carpool lane. This was just definitely not ideal.”

Now, Turning Point has SchoolPass ALPR cameras that read the license plate of the drivers, identify and verify parents/drivers during carline pickup, and announce ETA-based dismissal information to classroom teachers. As the parent or caregiver approaches the front gate, the teacher can see that the student’s driver is arriving and promptly send the student to the pickup area. The app does all of the work for the teacher. 

Courtney described the positive feedback from parents: “Parents don’t have to worry about waiting 5-10 minutes to pick up their child. The process is much faster and more seamless, which our parents love.” she explained. “When the parent or caregiver arrives on campus, they know their child is going to be ready. And the student is going to be where they need to be at the time they need to be there.”

Since deploying driver screening, the school has experienced enhanced student and campus safety throughout the day and after school. “We’re not as busy trying to make it an organized process and we have more time to actually make it a  pleasant experience for students, parents, and staff.”

Adhering to New COVID Safety Guidelines

The pandemic also brought on a whole new set of safety guidelines that the school needed to adhere to, including staggered drop-off and pick-up times, more strict visitor guidelines, and wellness checks for students, staff, and visitors.

 “We needed to tighten up security for visitors and check vaccination statuses. And generally, just create ‘COVID-safe’ security measures on campus.” explained Courtney. 

With the SchoolPass Wellness App, Turning Point was able to collect and verify vaccination status information seamlessly. Also using the wellness app, the school set up a daily wellness screening process with customizable questions. Staff and families complete the assessment from an easy-to-use website or app. The school now has real-time visibility of any individuals who are not adhering to state guidelines. 

By California state law, the school is required to keep records of parent/guardian sign-in and sign-out of Pre-K students. Pre-pandemic, the school’s method was to use a traditional clipboard and pencil. This just wasn’t operationally sustainable (or sanitary) post-pandemic. Courtney and the team knew they needed to make it easier and more efficient.

Now, through the SchoolPass app, parents digitally sign students in and out of the campus, and parents and authorized adults can check children in and out from the car using GPS. It’s fast, secure, and has benefits far beyond COVID-19 prevention.

“We legally needed to keep these records on file, so now that they’re electronic it has increased efficiency and they don’t have to waste any space filing sign-in and sign-out sheets.”

“And at the end of the day – when we’re ready to close the campus – we know for sure that there are no students on campus because we can see that each student has been signed out. That assurance and that documentation give our school staff peace of mind.” 

One Comprehensive School Movement Solution

SchoolPass enables schools to consolidate wellness screening, dismissal automation, campus safety, mass notification, and parent engagement into one connected platform. With SchoolPass, Turning Point School can now easily manage and modernize the arrival, screening, and departure of students, visitors, and staff in one place, while empowering staff to quickly and accurately account for everyone on campus throughout the school day, especially during an emergency. Fully integrated with their SIS partner, Turning Point can manage critical operational data in one place, without the hassle of navigating to different systems.

And as for sick days? When the humans at the school need to take one, they are able to rest and recover easily knowing SchoolPass is in place – alert and awake 24/7/365.