‘This is an innocence we hate to lose’
A new $500 a year system will allow Peabody-Burns school officials to alert parents, staff, and others by phone, email, or text.
The district is contracting with Harris School of Solutions of Wichita to provide the service, which cost $1,500 to set up. Officials go to the program, enter a message, and press send to simultaneously reach everyone registered to receive messages on their phones or email accounts.
“It can be something as simple as a starting time change for a junior high volleyball game,” Superintendent Ron Traxson said. “Or it could be something more urgent like a lockdown, threatening weather, or a gas leak. The EZMessage system can inform small or large groups of people about what is going on in a matter of minutes.”
Traxon said the system would replace phone trees and automated dialing.
When parents enroll their students Thursday and Friday, they will be asked to give the district the numbers or addresses the school will need. A phone number, cell phone number, or email address will become part of the school’s database for contacting parents.
“One of the most necessary parts of this plan will require parents to contact us if any of those numbers or addresses change,” Traxson said. “Keeping the information current is the key.”
The system can be used to send weekly memos reminding parents of programs or special events. If a bus of student athletes should break down on the way home and another bus has been sent to pick up the students, parents can be alerted so they are not worried or waiting at the high school to pick up their child.
Weather-related school closings also can be announced.
Chris and Linda Frye have four children enrolled in Peabody-Burns schools. Linda thinks she does a good job of keeping up with events and homework deadlines but can see advantages to EZMessage.
“I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “My kids don’t all have cell phones, so for those times when a bus might be late or school is cancelled in the middle of the day, it would be good to be contacted. It seems like it might be complicated, but I guess it is like any new procedure; we just have to get used to it.”
Traxon said if a school had an emergency, it would be hard for the district to control the flow of information because most students have phones and would contact their parents.
“But we want to have the correct information out there,” he said. “We don’t want rumors and panic spread throughout the communities.”
Another part of increased security this year will be identification lanyards. All staff will be required to wear lanyards, and each visitor will be required to sign in and obtain a badge.
“Students, once accustomed to seeing all the adults in the building wearing a badge, are quick to tell an adult when someone is in the building without one,” he said.
He also is looking at a video buzz-in system for each of the buildings.
“The cost is surprisingly reasonable,” he said.
Traxson said administrative staff were trained to use the EZMessage system Monday.
However, Traxson said the need for so much security left him a bit dispirited.
“I know we need to face the fact that we live in a different world today. Our job is not only to educate our youngsters; we need to provide a safe environment in a troubled world,” he said. “But then I look back at raising my own kids and I just think this is an innocence that we hate to lose.”