School form hell…please, create a standard emergency contact sheet form!

My older daughter just started junior kindergarden, which is an exciting but difficult time for the family.  My wife and I have divided up different aspects of managing the enrollments and transitions, and we have agreed that filling out all of the forms is on my list of responsibilities (it now takes its place with vomit, broken glass, and holding kids still during x-rays).

I have to say, there a lot of forms.  I had no idea.

There have been at least a dozen different ones for the kindergarden classroom, another set for the Jewish after-school program she goes to two days a week, and just this evening I had to fill out another six forms to sign her up for a one-hour-a-week dance class run by the school.

What’s really driving me bananas about these forms is that they are so repetitive!  I have lost count of how many times I have had to provide the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of me, my wife, and three emergency contacts.  The school’s office needs it, and the class teachers need it, and the people who handle the busing need it.  I keep entering the same information, over, and over, and over…

Heck, this latest one-hour-a-week program needed it repeated on three separate forms!  My hand is starting to cramp up.

In the image above, you can see one of them.  This is one side of a double-sided card, and it has 42 separate fields.  I had to provide two copies of these.

Now, I understand the school’s perspective… they could just keep one copy on file somewhere, but in an emergency, the people involved need to act independently.  They can’t call the central office every time they need to phone a parent, I guess.  But surely there is a better way.

As a technologist, my first thought was that they could computerize it.  Just have us fill out all of the data once online, and then each program that needs it can grab the data they need.  Within a minute I realized that this would be a disaster, of course.  In this type of bureaucracy, there would impossible to agree on the forms that were necessary, and there would be all kinds of implementation problems where certain programs couldn’t get the right access to the right forms… not to mention that while it is easy for me to just go online and fill in information, this is a public school, and there are large portions of the community without easy internet access.

Then, I thought of something simpler… couldn’t the school just create a standard “emergency contact” form?  I could fill it out once, and then print or photocopy 20 extras.  Every time someone needed the emergency contact information, they could just accept the standard form.  Non-affiliated organizations could still adopt the “standard” form, saving both themselves and the parents a major headache.


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