District to try out new notification system Aug. 30

By: 
Seth Jovaag

Are you connected?
Parents who are not contacted by the district’s new notification system between 1-3 p.m. Aug. 30 can get help signing up.
Go to the district’s home page – www.verona.k12.wi.us – or contact the main office of your child’s school.
 

 

If you have a child in Verona schools, expect to get a text, email and phone message next week from the Verona Area School District.

Officials are testing a new parent notification system between 1-3 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30.

The new system from Missouri-based company SchoolReach was purchased earlier this spring to help the district communicate rapidly with all parents and guardians when bad weather cancels or delays school or schools go into a security lockdown.

Parents don’t need to sign up for the system. They are automatically enrolled when they register their child for school online this month, said district technology director Betty Wottreng.

The Aug. 30 trial run will include a message saying this is a test of the new system.

Any parents who don’t receive the message should contact the office of their child’s school to update their contact information, or go to the district’s home page for help, Wottreng said.

The district this spring spent roughly $19,000 for a contract with SchoolReach that runs until August 2015.

The district was criticized in May for not communicating quickly enough for parents when a fugitive manhunt on May 2 sent schools into an extended lockdown.

While the district has roughly 5,000 students, only 600 parents were signed up for voluntary text message alerts and 1,650 for email alerts at the time of the manhunt. That prompted a letter of apology to parents from superintendent Dean Gorrell for “not having adequate (or any) communication about this.”

The new system will be used sparingly district-wide, but individual schools could use it to remind parents about events like “back to school night,” Wottreng said.

Using the new system, schools could also opt to send out only texts, e-mails or voice messages, or all three, she said. The system also can send messages to more than one guardian, such as when the parents are divorced and in separate households.

“It’s a powerful tool, and I think it will serve some of their needs for communicating with their constituents quite well,” Wottreng said.

The new system was one of many security upgrades for the district this summer.

More than $300,000 was set aside to pay for remodeled entrances at four schools, to install keyless entry systems at all sites and to replace 25 older surveillance video cameras at Verona Area High School with 66 new ones.
Officials balked, however, at the $105,000 estimate for the new cameras at VAHS, and instead spent roughly $60,000 to install 45 cameras – 38 inside and seven outside the school, said VAHS associate principal Brian Boehm.

“The new system will enable us to archive and search footage for an extended period of time,” Boehm wrote last week in an email to the Verona Press. “In addition, the picture clarity will be a substantial upgrade over the previous system, which is 15-20 years old.”

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