NORMAL - With 12,500 students, contacting parents on short notice can be a logistical headache for Unit 5 officials, especially in an emergency.
The job will get a lot easier, thanks to a decision by the school board Wednesday to buy an electronic notification service offered by SchoolReach of Fenton, Mo., at a cost of up to $129,000 for three years.
"It's a good thing to do and I'm glad we have the money to do it. It's a safety and security bit that has been missing," said board meber Mark Pritchett.
The service will be able to contact up to 6,000 parents per minute via e-mail and/or telephone. The system can be used for crisis management or unexpected schedule changes like snow days or sports event cancellations.
Messages can be tailored to specific groups, such as sports teams or certain grades.
Previously, it might have taken administrative staff at a 1,500-student junior high school all afternoon to contact parents.
It was something schools didn't have the capacity to do before, said Superintendent Gary Niehaus.
The basic system costs $2.50 per student. The board approved an additional $1 per student for options that allow the school to automatically notify parents of student absences and when lunch money accounts are running low.