School app keep­ing par­ents in the loop

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - PAULA HUL­BURT

In the mo­ments af­ter the 2011 Christchurch earth­quake, phone com­mu­ni­ca­tion was lost for hours.

Mother Shar­lene Barnes ran bare­foot through liq­ue­fac­tion and sewage to reach her son at school 3km away.

It was a cru­cial mo­ment for the man­ag­ing direc­tor who went on to cre­ate mo­bile app Skool Loop, to help fill the com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap.

The Kaiko¯ura mother said when the build­ing she was in started to col­lapse, all she could think about was her son.

Schools who had to phone par­ents or used web-based au­to­mated text mes­sages, were not pre­pared, she said.

‘‘Our build­ing started to col­lapse, and af­ter the ini­tial thought of help­ing other peo­ple I thought to my­self; ‘I’ve got to get to my son’.’’

‘‘Ba­si­cally, we had no idea if the school had fallen down or what had hap­pened,’’ she said.

The app uses push no­ti­fi­ca­tions to alert par­ents to school is­sues and is used by al­most 800 schools in New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

A Busi­ness Com­mu­ni­ca­tions alumni from the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury, Barnes said she knew there had to be a bet­ter way of al­low­ing schools and par­ents to com­mu­ni­cate.

But it wasn’t un­til her son in­tro­duced her to smart­phone apps that she found her plat­form.

‘‘I knew this was what I was wait­ing for,’’ she said.

Barnes’ 15 years of sales knowl­edge in her pub­lish­ing ca­reer which she used to her ad­van­tage when it came to get­ting her ven­ture off the ground.

The Skool Loop App is free and Barnes hopes to ul­ti­mately in­crease the num­ber of schools signed up to 5000.

With over 12,000 ad­ver­tis­ers in­volved with the app, Barnes’ com­pany has grown to 15 staff mem­bers and an an­nual turnover of $1.8 mil­lion.

‘‘I took a chance and it could go one way or the other … thank­fully it went the right way.’’

Kaik­oura woman Shar­lene Barnes has cre­ated a mo­bile app, Skool Loop, to im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween schools and par­ents.

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