A new telephone notification program called SchoolReach has been made available to Robertson County Schools by Community Bank and NorthCrest Medical Center. A Web-based program, it has the capacity to make more than 500,000 phone call attempts and deliver 200,000 messages an hour.
"So far as the district is concerned we looked at it for two reasons," said Director of Schools Dan Whitlow. "Those reasons are emergency notices, and parent and community communications." This means that if you have children in the school system, you can be kept up-to-date on any school events from scheduling to emergencies. Learning of an early school closure over the radio or from a friend will now be a thing of the past.
Whitlow is thrilled with the new system. "I can access it anywhere I can access the Internet," he explained. "If for some reason I was in a conference in Atlanta and something happened here that we needed to get out a message, I could log on right there in Atlanta and shut the whole school system down in the matter of an hour."
Versatility is built into the program. "Each school principal will have access to it for their own school," Whitlow added. "School schedules, closings, special events, teacher notifications and other notices will all be able to be accomplished efficiently now. "We will be able to import our absentee data from our student information program on a daily basis so if you were absent today you can expect a phone call tonight for mom and dad. It's effective and easy to use."
Despite the temptation, the school system will not overuse the program pledged Whitlow. "We don't want to harass people," he said. "We will make sure that our principals do not abuse this." Policies and procedures for the new program will be in place in time for school opening in the fall. For any emergency, Whitlow said, "My bottom line feeling is that we need to get the message out as soon as we possibly can."
For their part, both Community Bank and NorthCrest are happy to be on-board. "We're a community bank and totally committed to making this community a better place," Johnnie Marlin of Community Bank said. "When I heard about the program from him (Whitlow) and he e-mailed me the information, I just knew we had to do it. It was a perfect fit and is such a service to the schools. "I was fascinated by it."
Kathy Gunn, also with Community Bank, worked on this project and cites personal interest as well. "I have a child that's 5 and starting kindergarten this fall," she said. "I'd love to get a message in case of tornado saying, 'come get your child,' or 'don't come get your child.' Just the emergency aspect of it for me makes me thrilled." "We have a very big interest in being involved in the community, being an asset for the community, and helping the community," said NorthCrest Medical Center representative Rob DeBerry. "This will give the schools a whole lot better access to the parents, and the parents, I think will feel, once this program gets started, that they're better informed."
If your child is in the Robertson County school system watch for notification this fall asking for your contact information so they can include you in their database for contact.