Snow day marks debut of SchoolMessenger system

Thursday, Jan. 12, was a day of firsts for the district. Not only was that day the first snow day of the 2011-2012 school year, but it also marked the successful debut of the district’s brand-new mass notification system. The system, called SchoolMessenger, was implemented this year to send automatic notifications to all district families and faculty; its possible uses include cases of inclement weather, attendance notices and district emergencies.

“We had heard from our community for the past few years that this was a system that our families wanted and could benefit from, but unfortunately, the cost of a notification system was not within the district budget,” said Jennifer Henry, FHSD Communications Specialist. “It wasn’t until recently that the technology through SchoolMessenger became available to make the system more affordable through the district.”

The SchoolMessenger system costs the district approximately $14,800 per year; it is paid for by funds drawn from the existing communications budget. The system is a hybrid communication application and can run over the Internet or through the district phone system. It can send notifications via email, text message, work phone, cell phone, home phone and pager.

“By default, the system calls the home phone number and sends an email to the primary [household] member,” said Henry.

Henry said that the district received largely positive feedback following the launch of the automated notifications.

“We did have a lot of questions regarding how to change contact preferences,” Henry said. “We will be reminding families that they can update their contact preferences in the SchoolMessenger system.”

While families may choose to change their settings for automatic messages, others may choose to forgo the system completely. Sophomore Abbey Schneider did not find her family’s early-morning phone call helpful.

“Honestly… [the phone call was] the most annoying thing in the world,” Schneider said. “I think the old-school KSDK bottom-of-the-screen listing does a wonderful job.”

Schneider also cited the prevalence of social media in the lives of high school students.

“It’s not like someone is not going to know if we have a snow day, especially because of texting and Facebook,” she said.