Use of Emergency Notification Growing in Texas, Tapped for Swine Flu Calls
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Four school districts in Texas have gone public with their implementation of SchoolReach Instant Parent Contact system this year. Those are San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District, Keene ISD, Schulenburg ISD, and Santa Gertrudis ISD in Kingsville. In May the Texas Region 17 Education Service Center announced it had entered an agreement with SchoolReach wherein service center members, consisting of the 20 counties surrounding Lubbock, will receive a discount in subscribing to the service.
The SchoolReach parent notification system allows school administrators to deliver personalized phone, e-mail, or text messages to parents, teachers, staff, or designated groups within the school and general community.
West Oso ISD in Corpus Christi, a long-time subscriber, also recently shared details of its use of SchoolReach to communicate a swine flu-related school closure.
"The health department notified us on a Friday night that we had a probable case," said Grace Garza, the district's public education information management system coordinator. Garza logged into the Web-based system from her home, used the system's data integrator software to update the recipient lists, and then created a message notifying all district staff and parents.
"Our families have children in several schools, so it's difficult for parents to keep some at home and send others to school," Garza explained. And although the district also made use of local media, Garza felt it was important to send parents a more detailed message about the situation via the notification system. She had the opportunity to once more use the system away from the office when the duration of the closure was shortened from the originally proposed week to only three days.
She considers the "mobile" nature of the system a major advantage. "You don't have to be at your computer in your office. You can use it anywhere with Internet connectivity," she said.
West Oso ISD implemented SchoolReach in 2007 as a replacement for a modem-based notification system that Garza declined to name but described as "antiquated." The previous system was so expensive that it was purchased for only two of the schools and proved so cumbersome that those schools only used it to inform parents about attendance issues. "We had a hard time getting assistance from that software company," recalled Garza. Now all the district's schools are using SchoolReach to communicate about attendance issues as well as announce functions, PTA meetings, and other events.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.