Paperless in Suffolk

Published 9:21 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Long ago, back before smartphones and even the Internet — back in the early 1980s, when IBM was building the first personal computers and a couple of California guys named Steve had begun to “Think different” while building Apple computers in a garage — there were giddy proclamations and predictions concerning the “paperless society” America was about to become.

Today, 35 years and a couple of generations of digital-age children later, the dream (or nightmare, depending on one’s perspective) remains elusive. Sure, there are Kindles and Nooks and other such devices on which to read the latest bestseller. The “cloud” makes it possible to share nearly any kind of business document electronically, without every having to sacrifice a tree for a spreadsheet. Even this newspaper — or, at least, most of its contents — can be found online (, in case you’ve never checked).

But there are scores, if not hundreds, of different models of computer printers on the market at any given time, and professional and quasi-professional printing and copying is easier to find than ever before, with even delivery companies setting up print shops for public use.

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Clearly we’re still a long way from a paperless society.

But Suffolk Public Schools is ready to take a big step toward that promise with the school system’s planned adoption of a service called Peachjar, which will be used to send digital versions of the various paper fliers students bring home for everything from PTA fundraising announcements to field trip permission slips. The paper copies of those slips, for the most part, will begin to fade away.

School officials expect the switch to reduce copy costs and save both paper and time spent by teachers in front of copy machines, rather than in front of their students.

It’s a rare student these days that does not have at least one parent or guardian with an email account and ready access to the Internet — whether through a computer or a smartphone. For those rare families, paper versions of the digital fliers will be kept in school offices or made available through prearranged means.

Suffolk still will not be a paperless society when the school’s new program takes effect in January, but it will be one step closer to that great promise of the latter 20th century. It’s about time.