Preschool kiddos are cute, inquisitive, and on-the-go. You and your staff love spending time with them. When administration duties cut into that time, you miss out on all the fun.
Preschool software can automate many of your most tedious tasks and keep everything on track. The software can come loaded with all sorts of bells and whistles. How do you decide what you need it to do?
Let’s go through four important features you should look for in a preschool software solution.
Childcare management software overview
Childcare management software is specialized business software that offers both business capabilities, such as billing and payroll, along with features typically needed for childcare.
- Attendance tracking
- Immunization records
- Meal and menu tracking
The software manages information and automates certain activities to make them more consistent and to eliminate errors that can creep during manual administration. It can also eliminate duplicate work, so you do not need to keep up multiple spreadsheets or copy information from one form or computer to another. It does away with handwritten paper forms entirely if you wish.
The software can be downloaded onto your computer or server, or you can have it delivered via "the cloud." Software as a Service, or SaaS, delivery has a number of benefits that can save you money and effort.
Before you go shopping for software
You need to do some thinking and research before looking for a solution so you can find the best one for your needs. Put together:
- Your goals
- Your budget
- Your technical support needs
- Your level of ease with technology and software
Goals: What do you need the software to do? Put together a list of all the documentation and accounting activities you currently perform. Decide which tasks you want automated and the types of features you will need.
Budget: Be realistic. How much can you afford to spend and how much money will the software save you? Add up the time you spend performing the actions that will be automated and estimate how much you would save if the software did it for you.
Technical Support: You will need some training and instructional time for you, your administrators, and your staff. The availability of instructional videos to review and use for future training is something to check on.
You should receive help with the set-up and easily obtain answers to common questions, either on the phone or the vendor's website. You may want to ask whether assistance is provided for customizing the software to your facility or organization.
Find out what days and times support is available and request their average response time. What are the contact methods you can use?
Technical ability: if you are replacing an older system, you and your staff may not have any trouble learning the new one. If you are moving from paper and pen, more extensive training may be needed. Try to judge how comfortable everyone is with new software so you can determine the time it could take to train and implement the system.
Minimum standard requirements
At the very least, the software you purchase should have the following capabilities:
- Storage of complete daily information
- Daily journals and site journals
- Flexible billing
- Childcare bill generation
- Staff payroll
- Time clock
- Expense tracking
- Attendance and staffing report generation
- Meal planning
- Activity planning
- Accounting reports
- Form letter creation
- Data protection
- Compliance forms
- Custom reports
Look for four important features
Admissions and scheduling
If there is one thing parents like, it is convenience. It is difficult enough to deal with small children (as you well know). Asking them to take time off work and come to your facility to register is not a popular idea.
The admissions and scheduling application should provide a parent portal where parents can register and enroll their children online as well as accept payment, manage parent and child information, provide receipts for download, and tax statements.
Secure electronic registration and calendar-based enrollment provide your families with flexible scheduling arrangements and allows you to collect the activity fee up front. Account management centralizes all child and parent information while tracking account balances and payment due.
Billing and payments
Preschool software should be capable of generating bills, accepting payment, and keeping a running balance. Look for both batch payment posting and individual posting.
Payment processing should include the ability to take credit cards, automatic bank withdrawals, money orders, and cash. You need to be able to generate billing statements, payment reports, and invoices using information already in the system.
Agency accounting is also a must so you can process vouchers, co-pays, and agency payments for subsidized care. It should also generate invoices for the agencies based on attendance.
For accurate payroll, you need time and attendance capabilities. Track on-time arrivals, absences, and hours for each staff member at the organizational and site levels. The application should be able to provide a pay rate for periods based on hourly, weekly, biweekly, monthly, and annual rates.
Attendance and meal planning
Many preschools provide meals or snacks for the children. Make sure the software can provide menu planning and scheduling as well as monthly meal counts by location. Nutritional analysis and special dietary requirements should also be monitored, and USDA CACFP reimbursement reports generated.
Of course, you want to track the attendance of your kids. Look for preschool software with automated tools for signing-in and signing-out using a portal or mobile device. The software should also automate billing for late pickups.
Preschool software should have the capability to automate as many of your tasks as possible. Today's software comes with a wide variety of tools, but you need to make sure the features provided fit your needs.
Look for attendance and scheduling capabilities to automate checking in and out and provides a parent portal to allow families to register, enroll, and pay online without coming to your facility. Billing and payment applications can help you bill consistently and capture more revenue from late payment notices. Keep track of your employees and their payroll so you can track absences, late arrivals, and payroll. Finally, meal planning software automates the documentation necessary for USDA CACFP reimbursement and budgeting.
Being able to work with small children is why you started a preschool in the first place. Why spend all of your time doing administrative work and miss out on all those firsts being accomplished every day? Use preschool software to automate as much as possible and free up time for you to do what you went into this business for.