By Sascha Zuger
Once initial tech costs are covered, teachers are trained, parental resistance is handled, and kids find a new version of “The dog ate my homework” to excuse their late book reports, paperless classrooms can start reaping the financial benefits of saving all those trees. You say you’re not quite ready to swap heavy backpacks for flash-drive lanyards? Take a page from the Visalia Unified School District in California, and you may find that small change adds up to big bucks.
Because of budget cuts, the district asked all departments to find ways they could do more with less. Al Foytek, director of IT , discovered that Visalia USD , which has a population of 27,000 (K–12) students and 25,000 employees at 44 educational sites, also had more than 100 labor-intensive, inefficient paper-based administrative processes.
Foytek used PerfectForms, a Webbased service ($30 a month) that lets users build and customize applications from an existing library, to create simple online forms for each process. The savings provided by a single multipart and multicolor form, each printed copy of which cost 75 cents, topped $10,000 a year.
“It always makes sense to spend money when it will save even more money,” Foytek says. “When we can save money and at the same time reduce our footprint and preserve more of our precious resources, it is a no-brainer; you have to go for it.”
Tips for going paperless
¦ Automate intranet forms to communicate between districts.
¦ Post editable forms so teachers can complete them online without printing.
¦ Eliminating filing, stocking, and distribution saves not only staff hours but also the secure physical space that was previously needed to house forms, records, and paper supplies.
¦ Consider switching from Arial to Century Gothic, a font that uses roughly 30 percent less ink. One company offers “eco-font” software, which shoots tiny holes through each letter, reducing ink usage by 30 percent.