08/30/10 — Schools changing alert system

View Archive

Schools changing alert system

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 30, 2010 1:46 PM

After six years with the Honeywell Instant Alert system, Wayne County Public Schools is changing its school-to-home automated message system.

With the arrival of a new school year, the district is in the midst of transitioning to another company, AlertNow Rapid Communication Service.

Since being introduced in 2004, the messaging system has been helpful in notifying families of emergencies, weather-related closings or delays, as well as sending general information in a timely manner, Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said.

"Although the district has appreciated its relationship with Honeywell, after exploring the services of other messaging companies it was determined that the AlertNow system offers our district more messaging features for a more competitive price. The Board of Education approved the change in July."

The new service will be rolled out in four phases, officials said. The first phase, completed before school started, involved entering student and staff contact numbers from the district's database.

Parents and guardians are also encouraged to provide up-to-date contact information to ensure that AlertNow messages can be received.

The second phase will be implemented within the next week and provide the capability of sending automated messages when a student is absent from school. Once in place, such messages will be sent home on a daily basis.

The third phase will be the "Parent Portal," allowing parents or guardians to register additional ways to be contacted, such as a work phone number, cell phone or family member's number. Text message or e-mail options can also be listed.

"For parents who were used to having multiple contact numbers set up in Honeywell to receive automated messages from the school, we are asking that they be patient during this next phase of AlertNow implementation," said Ken Derksen, public information officer for the school system. "We are hoping to have the 'Parent Portal' operational within the next couple weeks so that parents can begin adding their additional contacts."

The fourth and final phase, expected to be completed by month's end, will result in daily updates for bus riders.

"Through the TIMS (Transportation Information Management System) automation, our schools will have the ability to send messages to parents of students who ride individual buses," explained Olivia Pierce, WCPS executive director for information and technology services. "This means if there is a bus delay or accident, parents and guardians for just those students on that bus can be immediately contacted."

Other information -- such as lunch fines and overdue books -- will also be included in the direct notification package. Officials said the plan is to have automated messages sent out weekly. This aspect is expected to be operational as early as November.

Parents can also access messages sent to their home by visiting the district's Web site at www.waynecounty schools.org.

Anyone receiving messages in error is asked to go to the district Web site to have their number removed from the AlertNow system.