Chicago Area Districts Aim to Enhance Parent Communications


4/19/2007—The greater Chicago area's Oak Lawn-Hometown School District, New Lenox School District, and Oswego Community Unit School District will use Minneapolis, MN-based Honeywell's Instant Alert for Schools to improve communications with parents.

Joining more than 20 other Illinois districts currently using the service, the three districts will be able to send messages to thousands of families within minutes via phone, cell phone, pager, e-mail, and PDA to update parents on critical and everyday issues, such as emergencies, weather-related concerns, bus delays and event cancellations.

Quickly disseminating news to a large group is especially important for Oswego Community Unit School District, one of the state’s fastest-growing school districts with a student body that has grown by 10 percent to 18 percent each year for the last decade. It currently serves more than 13,000 preK-12 students.

“Instant Alert allows us to keep up with our increasing population and communicate quickly and accurately with parents,” Oswego Community Unit School District Superintendent David Behlow, in a prepared statement.

Behlow recalls an anthrax scare at one school several years ago, which saw the the district constrained by using time-consuming phone trees, which also are prone to inaccuracy. “If we would have had technology like Instant Alert, I believe it would have minimized concerns, reduced calls from parents, and made it easier to manage the situation,” he said.

Using Instant Alert, a school or district representative initiates a message through a secure website or by phone and is instantly relayed to all contact points provided by parents or guardians. Parents can update their contact information online and specify how they want to be reached, such as stipulating e-mail for routine messages, and e-mails, and mobile phone calls for emergency communications.

Instant Alert also lets schools develop an unlimited number of subgroups to send customized messages to sports teams, clubs, parent organizations, specific grade levels, etc. Teachers and administrators also can alerts individual parents to combat truancy.

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About the author: David Kopf is a freelance technology writer and editor and can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Author

David Kopf is a freelance technology writer and marketing consultant, and can be reached at [email protected].