Just a few years ago, getting an emergency telephone message to the families of 6,000+students and staff members in four minutes would have been impossible. Not anymore.
Friendswood ISD is using School Messenger, an automated system that will enable school officials to accomplish this task and much more.
By using School Messenger, FISD officials can record a telephone message and send it to the telephones of all staff, all students, students and staff, or even specific targeted groups such as parents of all female sophomores. An official couldalso type a message and have a computer voice say the message. That voice could be male or female and speak in English or Spanish. Because School Messenger is Internet based, it can be used from outside the school building if needed.
School Messenger also gives officials the option of sending out just e-mail messages or both e-mail and telephone messages. Should a telephone message not get through on the first try, up to three more tries will be made. The message will be left on an answering machine if the recipient does not answer the telephone. Should, for instance, several students have the same contact number, School Messenger will not make duplicate calls.
Sending a text message is also available and to have this option, parents need to go into Parent Access on the FISD website and add texting as an additional method of contact. Since some texts cost the phone user, School Messenger cannot determine on its own to send a text message. The parent must give permission with an update to their information sheet on Parent Access.
After all calls/contacts are made, the school receives a report that tells who did and did not receive a particular message, if they received it in person or by answering machine, or if they did not receive the message at all. For some types of messages, the recipient may be able to leave the school a message in response. Should an individual not wish to receive any messages, his or her name could be removed from the database.
School Messenger will not be used just for emergencies and other school closings.Parents will also receive reminders about events such as concerts, open houses and district votes. The system could also be used to ask parents of absentees why their child is not in school.
Besides getting messages out quickly and accurately, School Messenger has another advantage.
“By utilizing a program like this, we can simplify what we have to do and use our time much more efficiently,” said C.C. Wu, FISD’s new Executive Director of Technology.