News

Schools strengthen communication lines

By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror

Communicating with parents just got a lot easier for Federal Way School District officials.

A few weeks ago, the district began using a communications service, Connect-ED, to call parents with important notifications.

The service can contact up to 16,000 parents in less than 20 minutes. Smaller groups, such as individual schools or athletic teams, can also be notified.

The Connect-ED system differs from the old system because it can contact parents at all 36 schools within minutes.

Before, only a handful of schools at the secondary level had communications systems that could contact parents. Messages were mostly regarding absences and could take two to four days to reach parents.

“It was just a slow system,” said district spokeswoman Diane Turner.

Prior to the change, most parent communication took place via fliers or bulletins sent home in students’ backpacks.

“In middle school, those notes often don’t make it,” Turner said. “We need the best possible way to get information to parents and everyone will acknowledge that the paper trail is not the best way.”

The new service will be used to communicate information about district events, absences, state testing, parent conferences, snow days and emergencies.

Messages can be sent in any language and to any phone number that parents request. Disconnected or other non-operational phone lines will be noted.

Earlier this month, the Connect-ED system was used to communicate information to parents about lockdowns at Illahee Middle School and Enterprise Elementary School.

Both schools were locked down in the afternoon due to police activity in the area. Nearly 200 students, who were still on campus for after-school activities, were transported to Todd Beamer High School for parents to pick them up.

Messages were immediately sent to parents informing them of the lockdown and where they could pick up their children.

“It worked. It was amazing,” Turner said. “Before, there would have been no way to contact every parent to let them know that there was a lockdown and the kids were safe, let alone that they were being transported.”

Last week, district officials completed training staff at all schools to use the Connect-ED system, and it is currently fully operational.

“The whole objective here is parent engagement and keeping parents apprised, giving them information on a timely basis,” Turner said.

“It does have, we believe, a direct impact in helping parents focus kids on education and their academic growth.”

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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