Call system links schools, parents

Published 10:11 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

Long gone is a simple note sent home with a child.

Suffolk Public Schools wants to make sure parents get the right information, updates and reminders, straight from the source.

To that end, the school system has launched Edu-Link, a $36,000 system that can mass-call parents throughout the city to give them information ranging from emergency closings to general announcements.

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“We want to keep parents involved,” said Bethanne Bradshaw, public information officer for Suffolk Public Schools. “We’re trying this as another way to keep parents more informed.”

The phone messaging system will work as an enhancement, not a replacement for current communication methods, Bradshaw said.

“If there’s an emergency or a school closing, we’re still going to put it on the Web site, on the television and give it to the media. This is just an extra step.”

Following the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, Bradshaw said, it became apparent the school system needed a more direct and immediate communication system for parents in case of an emergency.

Bradshaw said school officials researched a number of automated phone messaging systems and purchased the system with funds left over from its telephone budget.

“It wasn’t spending classroom teacher money,” she said.

The system has already used Edu-Link twice this year, once reminding parents about upcoming parent-teacher conferences and again Tuesday reminding parents to turn in their parent-pupil surveys.

Tuesday’s call resulted in successful messages to only 69 percent of students’ homes.

Bradshaw said it is important for parents who did not receive the messages to call their children’s schools to ensure the right contact number is listed. Also, messages can only be delivered to phone numbers in the 757 area code.

Most phone calls will come in the evening, and the phone calls are made from internal Suffolk Public Schools phone lines. Personal contact information is not being shared with any other organization/business.

Bradshaw said the school system wants to limit the number of Edu-Link alerts to ensure that parents are not inundated with phone calls.

The calls will be made for division-wide measures including school closings, and they also can be to notify parents about delinquent student lunch payments or student absences.

Bradshaw said this is the first step, and Edu-Link could eventually expand to include e-mails and text messages because “that’s the generation of parents these days.”

For more information about Edu-Link, call 925-6750.