Schools use Nixle to get word out

Published 8:39 pm Monday, December 20, 2010

By Heather McGinley

Staff Writer

Most folks tire easily of repeating themselves.

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Suffolk Public Schools feels the same way. That’s why it recently began using the online Nixle service to communicate more efficiently with its parents, students and staff members.

Nixle ( is a website that allows municipal governments, public safety entities and school systems to post alerts and community information. The alerts then become available on the Nixle website, and they are sent via email and text message to subscribers. It is free for the school system to use, and it is free for citizens to sign up.

Last week, the school system used the service to contact teachers and parents simultaneously to inform them of Thursday’s and Friday’s school closings.

According to Bethanne Bradshaw, public information officer for Suffolk Public Schools, using a community information service like Nixle is more efficient. Bradshaw said it took five minutes from the time she received information on the school closings to log on to the Nixle system and distribute that information to Nixle subscribers.

For Bradshaw, sending out information through Nixle is more efficient than the EduLink automated calling system.

“It can go out simultaneously,” she said, comparing Nixle to the phone system, which could take two hours. “We don’t have to wait for the phones to go through.”

Prior to the system’s use of Nixle, Suffolk Public Schools relied heavily on EduLink and traditional forms of information disbursement such as television media to inform parents and teachers of school closings.

Those systems are effective, but they are not immediate, Bradshaw said — especially if there is an issue that occurs during the day while most parents are at work. If an incident did occur during the course of the day, the school system would not be able to rely on the EduLink system because it uses home phone numbers. In that case, the Nixle system would be more effective as it informs subscribers via text message and email, which most parents would have access to at work.

In addition, Bradshaw said, Nixle can eliminate duplicate calls, which is currently a flaw in the EduLink system. Because the phone system pulls from the student database, households with more than one student receive multiple calls.

The school system still will use EduLink, but Bradshaw said the school system is considering using EduLink in a different way as more people sign up for Nixle. Instead of being used as a primary means of contacting parents to inform them of cancellations, EduLink might be more useful for reminder calls and for events that are school- or grade-specific. The school system will continue using EduLink to inform parents of student absences and for food service concerns, such as depleted funds in a lunch account.

“I hope people will take advantage of it,” Bradshaw said of Nixle. “This is a quicker way to get the word out.”

The city government as well as a handful of individual schools also use Nixle.

Subscribers also can get weather and traffic reports and road closures. Subscribers identify what types of notifications they wish to receive.

For school system notifications, users must specify “Suffolk Public Schools” in the settings when they apply. For more information visit, the Suffolk Public Schools website at To subscribe to Nixle, visit