Apps to help with school challenges resulting from COVID-19 and beyond.

In early spring 2020, over 55 million school children in the United States began remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.* Things look different now: some students are back to in-person learning while others remain online. Others juggle hybrid attendance — a particularly challenging schedule for students, parents, and school staff.

Whether in person or online, K-12 educators and administrators continue to work tirelessly to overcome learning loss and get school operations back on track. Thankfully, there are custom apps to help with school challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Top COVID-19 challenges affecting K-12 schools.

School systems are no stranger to evolving teaching models and learning requirements. Yet the pandemic introduced new layers of complexity. Among the biggest challenges, schools continue to:

  • Alternate between face-to-face and remote learning, either by choice or due to quarantine measures, often with short notice.
  • Need to capture attendance correctly — digital or otherwise — and identify students or classrooms that require additional help.
  • Adjust resources — including teachers, substitutes, counselors, supplies, iPad or Mac devices on loan — to align with up-to-date attendance data across virtual and in-person students.

Constantly evolve safety processes to address local, state, and national health mandates as well as recommendations from public health organizations.

  • Use constant, transparent communication to keep teachers, parents and guardians, administrators, and the community on the same page.
  • Track data against COVID-19 restrictions and follow benchmarks for loosening (or tightening) restrictions based on virus transmission per class, grade, school, county, or other factors.

The added pressure of learning loss.

On top of these challenges, schools must also address learning gaps caused by pandemic-related school closures. This is perhaps the most significant obstacle schools face as they plan for the 2021-2022 school year.

According to a McKinsey & Company report, "While the worst-case scenarios from the spring [2020] may have been averted, the cumulative learning loss could be substantial, especially in mathematics — with students on average likely to lose five to nine months of learning by the end of this [2020] school year."†

The report also points out that, while setbacks exist for all students, pandemic-related school closures also deepened the disparity in learning outcomes: “Students of color could be six to 12 months behind, compared with four to eight months for white students. While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss.”

Tips to improve academic success.

To minimize academic loss and accelerate learning, McKinsey provides recommendations for K-12 schools. Among their tips, they encourage school leaders to:

  • Eliminate the digital divide, ensuring each student has the technology and tools they need to learn.
  • Work within a daily schedule for students and incorporate checkpoints for engagement.
  • Equip teachers online, including new ways to share best practices and receive professional development.
  • Take a more holistic view of the student's life, and engage directly with each family.
  • Implement feedback loops covering instruction, learning, and assessment.

With so much at stake, schools have to work resourcefully to fill process gaps and recover from learning loss. As you’ll see from the stories that follow, administrators can use Claris FileMaker to build custom apps to use for school needs — from simplifying tasks to improving student outcomes.

Apps to help with school devices on loan.

When the pandemic hit, schools rushed to quickly transition from face-to-face to virtual classrooms, sometimes overnight. Often, this meant a scramble to assign devices, leaving no student behind.

Home access to technology remains a struggle for many schools. According to a USA Today survey, as of December 2020, at least 11 of the 25 largest districts in the US were still working to get devices or internet access to students. The report also notes that the problem is greatest among the lowest-income students, who are also most likely to remain fully remote.‡

One issue is forecasting, such as determining how many devices a school may need based on remote or in-person attendance. Another problem is tracking devices: are they assigned, lost, leased, or outdated?

Recently, Beverly Public School (BPS) District in Massachusetts tackled this challenge with Claris FileMaker. According to Steven Palomo, IT director at BPS, "We wanted a single platform to help manage our one-to-one laptop-to-student program. From there, we really started connecting FileMaker with all our other systems. Eventually, we brought in payments, addresses, and all the information from our SIS. At that point, FileMaker was our one-stop-shop for the laptop program and anything technology related."

Then, when COVID-19 closed school doors, the district relied on FileMaker to quickly flip the switch to remote learning, adding and assigning 1,800 devices to students and staff in just three months.

Alice Williams, IT director for BPS, notes, “In the past, with the old system, it was very archaic and everything was by paper. Now, what makes FileMaker so amazing is the fact that you can just get all your information right there.”

Apps to use for school attendance.

According to the McKinsey report, 60% of K-12 students started the 2020-2021 school year fully remote, with another 20% in a hybrid model, and others scattered across in-person classes. Clearly, attendance is complicated.

In digital learning, engagement is another issue. The report explains, "Along with access to both technology and live teaching, students need a daily schedule that builds in formal opportunities for engagement, collaboration, and feedback."

Two middle schools in Huntington Beach provide perfect examples of how to tackle engagement challenges. Due to the suddenness of the school closures during the pandemic, staff and administrators couldn't access secure student information system (SIS) data from their home computers. The team considered using a manual process with Google Forms. However, this would put an unnecessary burden on teachers and create massive amounts of disjointed data.

Claris FileMaker provided a solution. Leveraging the students' existing mobile interface, the schools rapidly created a low-code app for "one tap a day" student check in. About 3,000 students checked in daily. All stakeholders could easily view the data, with insights drawn from synchronization with their SIS. The staff interface enabled teachers and administrators to track which students didn't check in and follow-up on the child's needs.

According to Don Gray, an educator at one of the schools, "Because FileMaker was already so integrated and accessible, it allowed us to innovate through a moment of crisis, and within a few days, put a solution in the hands of our students and teachers."

As Gray points out, students not only checked in but also selected from five emoticons to express their feelings. "The app gave our office and counseling staff the ability to assess large groups of children very quickly, and everyone absolutely loved it," said Gray. "It's interesting to find where the value lives in a school environment. And, with COVID, the value of understanding not only the students’ attendance, but also their mental health, was right in front of us."

Apps to use for school enrollment and family engagement.

To improve student outcomes, schools should rely on holistic student data, which may include information around the student’s home, test scores, grade level, social or creative interests, and emotional well-being. When this data is difficult to access or manage, it can slow down enrollment decisions, family engagement, and the success of learning programs.

With Claris FileMaker, you can solve this issue — like Chicago Public Schools (CPS) did with the help of Soliant Consulting, a Claris Partner.

The CPS Selective Enrollment High School bases admissions on grades, test scores, and the proximity of the student’s residence. Their custom app, created with FileMaker, facilitates the selective enrollment process by synchronizing data from various systems, calculating scores, and displaying information to parents and administrators through a web portal.

According to the project manager, Brian Pool, "With the software we created with Soliant, we spend less time with logistics and more time meeting the needs of our schools and students. When we have to make changes to the software for mailings or new reports, the technology makes it easy to do ourselves."§

No matter the challenge, Claris FileMaker helps K-12 schools stay agile.

More than ever, schools are focused on what's always been important — student outcomes. Doing so means teachers and administrators must collaborate to:

  • Ensure each student has the technology they need to learn.
  • Check attendance and engage with students every school day.
  • Manage complex schedules (in-person, digital, hybrid) and allocate resources accordingly.
  • Support teachers with tools and processes to save time and eliminate manual work.
  • Engage with families and keep communications flowing.
  • Use data and feedback loops to ensure instruction and assessments keep students on track.

Thankfully, when there’s no app for that, Claris FileMaker helps you create one.

FileMaker is easy enough for someone with a little development know-how to use, yet powerful enough for district IT developers to build any sophisticated solution a school may need. The platform helps eliminate tedious tasks, gain data insights, automate communications, track devices on loan, and support students' success and wellbeing – now and in the future.

Ready to learn more?

Exciting things are happening at Claris, especially with K-12 Education, including bringing the power of automated SIS data integration to Apple School Manager. For additional information about this new initiative, visit our education page.