Published Online: March 19, 1997

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A phone call away

Please press 1, followed by the pound key, to find out about the Information on Demand phone-mail system for schools.

Beep. Beep.

Thank you.

Parents at George County Middle School in Lucedale, Miss., can now receive information about their children's grades, attendance, and discipline records over the telephone.

The Information on Demand system is similar to voice mail programs used by many schools to list events, lunch menus, and the like. But the IOD system allows parents to touch-tone their way through a menu to get individual data about their children.

The system is the perfect way for busy parents to find out whether their children are skipping classes or causing trouble, school officials say.

"It's really exciting," said Kaye Brown, the principal of the 940-student middle school. "Of course, with any new technology, you've got to work the bugs out. But parents are very pleased with it."

The system is similar to those used for phone-line banking. Parents key in a student identification number and a personal identification number to gain access to their children's data. The school updates attendance and discipline information daily, Ms. Brown said.

In addition, the phone system calls parents with a recorded message when a student doesn't show up for school. It can also be programmed to call all parents to tell them about an upcoming meeting, or to congratulate all the members of the honor roll.

Software Technology Inc., a Mobile, Ala.-based developer of school attendance software, created the system and has sold about 30 of the units since last year, said Steven Olensky, a company vice president.

The system has been popular with school officials in Gulfport and Biloxi, Miss., where many parents work odd hours on riverboat casinos, he said.

"Their children are asleep when they get home from work," Mr. Olensky said. "This allows them to keep informed."

The system costs about $5,000. But Software Technology points out that improved student attendance usually translates into more state per-pupil aid. Thus, the system may well pay for itself, the company says.

Please press the pound key to end this article.

Beep.

Thank you. Goodbye.

MARK WALSH

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