School notices in the blink of an eyeSt

St. Louis system allows schools to send out emergency and routine notices to parents' cell and home phones, as well as text messages.

In St. Louis, parents no longer have to pull crumbled school notes from the remains of week-old lunches at the bottom of their kids' backpacks. St. Louis-area schools are implementing lightning-speed communication technology that lets them contact thousands of parents within minutes, reports the Saint Louis Post Dispatch.

The SchoolReach system, marketed by GroupCast, can send more than 200,000 calls an hour. Administrators just record a voice message, click a button, and a message is broadcast to thousands of parents simultaneously on cell, home and work phones. Administrators can even send text messages.

"So far the response from our parents has overwhelmingly been very positive," said Kathy Reznikov, director of communications for the Ladue School District.

The most obvious use of the technology is to contact parents in emergencies. But information also can be customized to a specific audience, such as all the students on one bus route if a bus breaks down. The technology can also be used for non-emergency communication such as letting parents know about school events, parent-teacher conferences and report cards being sent home.

"The emergency part, quite frankly, I don't know that you can put a price on it to relieve a parent's sense of concern about their child," she said.

"As a parent myself, to be able to get a call with the principal's voice on it saying there's a fire and everybody's out safe, to know that immediately, you can't put a price on that," said Reznikov.

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