11/23/04 — Wayne public schools ready to launch new $200,000 emergency call system

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Wayne public schools ready to launch new $200,000 emergency call system

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 23, 2004 2:02 PM

Wayne County public schools are ready to use a new $200,000 a year emergency call system, which officials say is designed to improve communication with parents.

The school board approved the Honeywell Instant Alert System several months ago. A contract was signed in May, with the school system expected to spend $200,000 a year for the next three years for the service. Letters were mailed out to parents this week explaining how it will work. Officials say it will increase access and ease of communication between the school system and parents, whether in an emergency or in providing information about schools.

Parents can choose a variety of ways to be contacted, including home phone, cell phone, e-mail, pager. Administrators can also divide the student population into different subgroups to tailor information to certain groups of parents.

In an emergency, a school administrator will be able to activate the system through the Internet or by a toll-free phone number. Contact can be made quickly without clogging school and district phone lines, officials say. Messages can be sent up to 10 times faster than traditional phone trees and provide a significant improvement in contact rates, officials say.

The method also allows for the disbursement of accurate information, updated as situations change, officials say.

Officials hope that the system will lead to increased parent participation. It will also reduce costs associated with paper copies and forms, officials say.

Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools, said, "We are excited to implement the Honeywell Instant Alert system. The decision to utilize this resource demonstrates the Wayne County Board of Education's commitment to making communication with parents, students and staff a priority."

Parents of students are encouraged to visit the public schools' Web site, www.waynecountyschools.org, to become more familiar with the alert system. A preliminary database has been installed, allowing contact information to be updated.

The school system also plans to send out a test message in the next few weeks.

The Honeywell system has been used in Virginia and California and is being implemented in Craven and Chatham counties in North Carolina.

Beginning in January, information will also be provided in Spanish.