Schools use early response system to alert parents

Published 9:26 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

Phones rang across Covington County Monday morning bearing an important message for households with school-age children, but some homes might not have received the call.

Michael Smithart, superintendent for Opp City Schools, said parents were notified through the Crisis Communication System that schools were closed Monday.

“Our system is perfect for situations like that,” he said. “We can relay a message to everyone in the school system within 30 seconds.”

Smithart said that some parents might ignore the phone call because of how it appears on the caller ID.

“The phone call comes up as Macon, Ga.,” he said. “It looks like a telemarketer and you want folks to know that it is actually Opp City Schools attempting to contact them.”

According to Smithart the phone call may also appear as the number 1-877-471-8057 and parents are urged to answer the call and receive the important information.

“We have had the communication system for a couple of years now,” Smithart said. “Fortunately we do not have to use it a great deal. We can use it for any number of purposes. This system can save valuable time for us anytime we have important information to disperse to a large portion of the school system.”

According to Smithart, the system’s overall effectiveness is directly related to the cooperation of everyone involved with the school system.

“For the system to work effectively we need as accurate and up-to-date information as we can have,” he added. “If you did not receive a call Monday morning, then contact the school and make sure the information is up to date.”

Sara Mixson, data collection secretary with the Andalusia City School system, said parents often provide cell phone numbers to the school system for emergency contact and forget to update the number if and when those cell phone numbers change.

“Parents should be sure that they have their contact information is correct at the school,” she said. “I recommend that they check with the schools and make sure all of their information for all persons is updated. The system is only as good as the information placed into it.”

The Crisis Communication System, which is also used by the Covington County School system, is designed to leave a message if an answering machine is available. Calls for the Crisis Communication System may also show up as “unavailable” on some caller id systems.

Mark Miller, technology coordinator for the Covington County Schools, said he has received feedback from parents who admitted to not answering the call because it seemed like a telemarketer.

“It just says that is a call from Macon, Ga., on most caller ID’s,” he said. “We have gotten some feedback from parents who said they did not answer. However, the dialer from the communication system can sense an answering machine or voicemail and will leave a message.”

If parents have any questions or concerns about the communication system, then they are urged to contact their respective school system.