Ed-Tech Policy

School Alerts Utilize Web

By Andrew Trotter — January 25, 2005 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Quick communication with parents during a weather emergency or a security threat is a vital concern for school districts, but older telephone-dialing systems and even mass e-mails can all fail to connect.

A recent improvement puts into parents’ hands the ability to set—and modify—their communications preferences on a Web site. That tack is used both by an alert service provided by the Honeywell Corp. and a home-grown system in a Mississippi school district.

See Also

The 340-student Harding Township schools in Morris County, N.J., subscribes to Honeywell’s Instant Alert, a managed service that relays messages from designated school officials for both emergency and nonemergency purposes.

Mary Jane Canose, the school district’s business manager, said the message goes out much faster than with the district’s old auto-dial system, which “was so slow and cumbersome, and if one person is away, it messes up the whole chain.”

Now, the superintendent or other designated official e-mails a text message to the service, which automatically converts it to a computerized female voice—meant to convey calmness in a crisis—and sends it simultaneously to the phone numbers that parents have indicated. The text message is also blasted to e-mail addresses and pagers. Alerts are color-coded based on their urgency; parents can designate different contact information for different colors.

The district pays $3,000 annually for the service, said Ms. Canose.

On Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, the 2,500-student Lincoln County district has a message system that follows similar principles at practically no cost.

In September, when Hurricane Ivan threatened the Gulf Coast, Patrick Brown, the information-technology director, stayed up a few nights and built an alert system using free “open source” programming tools. The only significant cost was his time, he said.

As with the Honeywell system, users can go to the district’s Web site and type in their phone numbers and the names of their phone or Internet service providers.

The Lincoln County system doesn’t deliver voice messages, but it sends e-mails and text messages to cellphones and pagers as well as e-mail accounts. The messages are also color-coded to show their degree of urgency.

So far, the district has used the system three times: to warn of school closings because of a tornado and hurricanes, Mr. Brown said.

A version of this article appeared in the January 26, 2005 edition of Education Week


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Ed-Tech Policy Reported Essay Remote Learning Isn’t Just for Emergencies
Schools were less prepared for digital learning than they thought they were.
5 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Ed-Tech Policy Opinion Why Are We Turning Our Backs on Remote Learning?
Neither the detractors nor defenders of remote learning are fully in the right, argues one superintendent.
Theresa Rouse
5 min read
Illustration of girl working on computer at home.
Ed-Tech Policy Letter to the Editor Using E-Rate to Address the Homework Gap
The FCC's E-rate program can provide relief to many families, says this letter author from the Internet Society.
1 min read
Ed-Tech Policy Q&A Acting FCC Chair: The 'Homework Gap' Is an 'Especially Cruel' Reality During the Pandemic
Under the new leadership of Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC is exploring broadening the E-Rate to cover home-connectivity needs.
5 min read
Internet connectivity doesn't reach all the houses
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty