WHPS Connect-ED Rapid Notification Service
The recent onset of emergency situations from drinking water alarms to the H1N1 Influenza sheds light on the fact that we must always be fully prepared. Accordingly, West Hartford Public Schools has implemented the Connect-ED service to enhance school-to-parent communication and emergency preparedness. We will also use the service to support our parent outreach initiatives, ensuring parents are well informed about important events that impact their child's education.
The Connect-ED system is a communication service that enables key administrators and security personnel to reach all parents and staff with personalized voice and text messages quickly to provide valuable information should a need arise.
Now with the Connect-ED service, parents can be reached and provided with vital instructions anywhere, any time, through their cell phones, home phones, e-mail, TTY/TDD receiving devices, or other text-receiving devices.
During a health scare, school threat, or other event in the public interest, effective communication with parents and staff has a direct impact on student safety. We are implementing Connect-ED because we recognize the importance of communication before, during and after a situation occurs. West Hartford Public Schools is committed to the safety and quality of education for its students. A communication tool, such as Connect-ED, adds to our ability to provide an environment in which students can feel safe and parents will be informed.
We can also target messages to specific groups of parents or staff, notifying only those parents with information about specific student matters such as band practice, club information, late buses, and parent-teacher conferences.
Today we are forced to prepare for emergency situations that years ago we never could have anticipated happening, said Dr. Karen List, Superintendent of Schools. We recognize the important role that immediate communication plays in safety as well as with ongoing parent outreach initiatives and have selected Connect-ED because of its successful track record and multiple capabilities that will allow us to keep parents and staff informed.
The Connect-ED service enables WHPS administrators to schedule, send, and track personalized voice messages at up to six phone numbers and two e-mail addresses per person. In all, the multi-modal service helps officials reach out to parents and staff via:
- Voice messages to home phones, work phones, cell phones, and even e-mails
- Text messages to cell phones, PDAs and other text-based devices
- Written messages to e-mail accounts
- Messages to TTY/TDD receiving devices for the hearing impaired
It is crucial that we are able to notify parents immediately in emergency situations because up-to-date communication helps minimize the spread of misinformation, restore order and provide direction, Dr. List said.
The system can be used to inform parents and staff members of school closures and contingency plans due to inclement weather, issues arising from pandemics, or other late-breaking developments. The Connect-ED service has been successfully used for communication by schools across the country during events such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ernesto, school shootings, and to help locate missing children.
West Hartford Public Schools plans to have the Connect-ED service operational as of November 1, 2009. The first task is to confirm current contact information for parents as held in the student information system. Letters will be sent to parents, with a form to update critical contact information, by the start of school.
Once the revised data is collected and input, WHPS plans to test the Connect-ED service on November 2, 2009, with a welcome message. This will serve to test the data provided by parents, and to provide a list of incomplete calls to be further updated.
Connect-ED is owned by Blackboard Connect Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Blackboard Inc. that provides comprehensive communication services specifically designed to enable rapid dissemination of critical information via multimodal communication, including voice, email, SMS text messaging, TTY/TDD devices, and networked digital signage.