Before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, USC student Sasha Reiss and UC Santa Barbara student Josh Andrews heard complaints from a preschool administrator about the ineffectiveness and ambiguity of the app their school was using for pick-ups and drop-offs. Without a firm understanding of the app’s mechanics and with winter break drawing to an end around January, administrators entered the school year with frustration and confusion.
In response to this, the duo, in tandem with cofounders Daniel Andrews and Max Miranda, both UC Berkeley alumni, developed Carline School Management to facilitate the hectic process.
The app, which launched in early April, makes the sign-in process contactless and easier to carry out, according to the founders and users, which is proving to be beneficial amid the ongoing pandemic.
“At the time, most schools either had pen and paper sign-outs — [a] communal writing utensil touched by tons of parents and teachers every single day — or it’s a school iPad that was passed around,” said Reiss, a senior majoring in art history and business administration. “The sign-in and sign-out process had to radically change in order to adapt to this post-COVID world.”
Carline’s main function is to expedite the sign-in process at preschools; however, the app offers a variety of features for parents in addition to signing students in and out of school: designating authorized guardians, setting up playdates and checking their child’s schedule.
Carline also provides a digital signature option. The state of California requires wet signatures from parents in order to validate the authenticity of sign-in-sign-out sheets at preschools. However, signing with your finger on the app counts as a digital signature which can be used in lieu of a written one.
The app has since been adapted to include health questionnaires where parents must report any symptom their child may be experiencing, thus allowing schools to monitor students and curb the spread of the virus.
According to Dr. Tamar Andrews, the director of Temple Isaiah Preschool in Los Angeles, implementing the app has significantly improved parents’ experiences with the process, especially after a considerable number of parents had become disgruntled from using the other educational apps that were previously utilized by the preschool.
“We found that with Carline School Management, the parent experience was so much better than anything else, and for us, our number one priority besides safety is happy customers,” Andrews said. “Parents were wondering why we didn’t use this from the beginning.”
The team, consisting of 12 members, executed about 100-200 dry runs among themselves as well as with the teachers at Temple Isaiah Preschool in order to ensure the app was functioning as intended. The app continues to be updated to improve user experience.
“Parents have found it incredibly intuitive, and the other thing that parents love about it is the experience they have when they do have a problem, and they have to call for tech support,” Andrews said. “The people who answer the phone are immediately responsive and appropriate and very helpful and polite.”
The app took three and a half months to develop after the initial design was drawn up according to the requests of administrators and parents, owing to the cofounders’ combined backgrounds in business, design and software development.
Carline was beta-tested with 70 students in December at the Temple Isaiah Preschool’s winter camp before being launched at the preschool.
Karla Leung, a junior majoring in communication and a product design intern at Carline, said that along with the initial beta test, the app undergoes frequent testing in order to make sure the interface is easy to understand.
The app diverges from other primary education management apps by focusing on one feature: the sign-in-sign-out process. Thus, it assists preschool teachers and alleviates stress during one of the most trying times of their day, Andrews said.
The simplicity of the software also enables the team to offer the app at an affordable and competitive price.
“Almost every single other solution tries to operate a whole entire package deal, and so you’re locked into their services as well as their infrastructure for your whole entire school, and this generally runs at a much higher premium,” Andrews said.
With an emphasis on customer service, Carline provides parents with video tutorials on how to operate the app and in-app support, as well as instructions and a live chat option on its website.
The team said it wants to concentrate on building upon existing relationships and ensuring that its customers feel that their needs have been met.
According to Reiss, the team makes development decisions after heavily researching the schools they work with, talking with clients and defining ways to mitigate specific issues.
After its initial success at the Temple Isaiah Preschool, the Carline team rose in popularity after being recommended by satisfied preschool directors. The developers also marketed themselves through different social media platforms, targeting preschool administrative discussion forums.
The app is currently being utilized in nine preschools across five states: California, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia and Virginia. There are plans to possibly expand into secondary and higher education institutions.
“In the future, we do see Carline becoming an application bundle that replaces the entire back office of any sort of school … we want it to be a turnkey software system that makes it so easy to operate your school,” Reiss said. “We are basically creating a massive distribution channel that could far outpace the app itself in terms of growth due to the natural network that exists.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the year and majors of Sasha Reiss. It also falsely stated that a fingerprint could be used as a signature in the application. The Daily Trojan regrets these errors.