Thursday, February 18, 2016

New Emergency Notification System to Launch 2/19/2016



SchoolMessenger, a new emergency notification system for the Manchester School District will be tested within 5 pilot schools. The deployment of SchoolMessenger is part of our ongoing efforts to improve safety and communication.

Q: What is SchoolMessenger?

A: SchoolMessenger is a secure multi-channel notification system for schools that can be used to quickly and efficiently deliver a high volume of school and district-level messages.

Q: How are messages delivered?

A: SchoolMessenger has the capability to send notifications via voice, text, email, social media, web, and push notifications.

In its initial implementation SchoolMessenger will be used for emergency notifications via voice and email. It will use data from the prioritized contacts for students in Aspen, our student information system. Once the system has been piloted and tested for emergency use, parents/guardians will be given the opportunity to create a contact profile using SchoolMessenger’s Contact Manager where they can opt to receive text messages, set phone and email preferences, and customize the types of messages they wish to receive.

Q: What is considered an emergency?

A: For the purpose of our initial implementation an emergency is defined as: An event that invokes the MSD Emergency Response Action Plan. The notification system will also be used for incidents such as an unexpected early dismissal or transportation delays.

Q: Can SchoolMessenger be used for anything other than emergency notifications?

A: Yes, in addition to quickly providing information during emergencies, SchoolMessenger has the capability to send attendance information and customized messages about school and district general interest activities

​In its initial implementation SchoolMessenger will be used for emergency notifications

Q: Who has the ability to send emergency notifications?

A: Key district personnel and all school principals and assistant principals will be provided with user accounts. End user training will be scheduled with SchoolMessenger’s training department.

Q: When will we begin using SchoolMessenger and which schools will participate in an initial emergency notification pilot?

A: Based on information gathered in a recent survey to inquire about the integrity of contact information in Aspen and schools’ readiness to proceed, five schools have been identified to participate in a pilot: Gossler Park, Memorial, Parker-Varney, Parkside, and West. A letter will be provided to schools to notify parents/guardians that they should expect to receive a test call to their home and cell phones as well as an email notification (if that information was provided and entered in Aspen.)

Q: Which contacts will receive a notification?

A: Priorities 1 - 3. Please make sure contacts 1 - 3 are truly emergency contacts (not general contacts.)

Q: What about Nixle and other messaging systems?

A: Until we have reached full deployment of SchoolMessenger’s capabilities we will continue to post emergency notifications to Nixle so that those who have opted in to receive text messages can continue to do so. Schools that have subscribed to third-party attendance notification systems can continue to use these systems until SchoolMessenger is fully deployed.

Q: What about families whose home language is not English?

A: SchoolMessenger can deliver text-to-speech messages in 30 languages. Users can input text into the system and SchoolMessenger will automatically translate the text into audio recordings in various languages. As with any text-to-speech tool, the system is not always perfect and can translate the written word into spoken word incorrectly. When sending text-to-speech messages it is recommended to proofread and listen to the produced audio recording and to work with bilingual liaisons to help ensure accuracy of your message.

Again, SchoolMessenger is part of our ongoing efforts to improve safety and communication. SchoolMessenger will be an important tool to help with unexpected emergencies when it becomes imperative to contact families in a timely manner.