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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2007
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Decatur has new way to contact students' parents

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

The call turns Somerville Road Elementary School Principal Dee Jones' day into mild chaos.

The central office is calling to say it is ending the school day and sending students home because of impending bad weather.

She moves, first going from classroom to classroom to inform the teachers, avoiding a schoolwide announcement to keep from scaring the children.

Next, Jones' job is ensuring students have a way home and a parent or guardian waiting there.

She prefers that no child is left waiting after everyone leaves the school.

Jones and other Decatur principals now have a new tool in their ongoing need to connect with parents, but they need their cooperation in registering for a computer notification system.

Parents can go to www.dcs.edu/emailsignup.cfm and register to get an e-mail or a text message from the school system on inclement weather and other information.

Superintendent Sam Houston said school officials tested the contact system Oct. 19.

Morgan County Emergency Management Agency officials told Houston that he wouldn't have to worry about a thunderstorm system that was moving into Alabama. They changed their minds, however, 15 minutes later and said there was a tornado warning in Lawrence County.

"We sent out a message and got a response in about two minutes," Houston said.

Houston said the notification system gives schools another way to contact parents. The school system notifies television and radio stations, but sometimes parents aren't listening or watching.

Each principal has a notification list of parents to follow. Jones said she allows students to use every phone in the building to call parents.

But some parents work in jobs that do not allow them access to a phone.

Jones said e-mail isn't an effective form of communication at her school because many of her parents do not have Internet access.

Jones and her teachers do most of their communication with parents through old fashion postal mail or sending notes home with the students.

She said most parents do, however, have cell phones, so text messaging could become an effective way to contact them, especially those working on an assembly line.

She said she would like to be able to use text messaging on an individual basis, the same way her church uses numbers during its services to notify parents when there is a problem in day care with their child.

"That would be very helpful in our communications with the students," Jones said.

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