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Why school notifications should be in your communications mix

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By Steve Williams
Nov 17, 2016 9:07:47 AM

With more than 90% of adults going nowhere without their cell phone, making school notifications a part of your school's communications DNA is a no-brainer. It can help keep parents in the know on everything – from ordinary to urgent – impacting their child. Pinpointed and large-scale notification should be part of your school’s communication plan.

Critical scenarios like a school lockdown, bus accident, or student health emergency can strike anytime, and a seamless communication system plays a vital role in your crisis response. For less urgent matters, school notification systems are just plain convenient and a very effective way to get the word out to parents about school events, student information, and upcoming deadlines.

Providing accurate and timely information through school notification systems should be part of every school’s PR plan.

Examine tech tools for communication

Does your school have the technological infrastructure to send widespread messages, across various modalities, during an emergency? Is there a way to provide parents with instant alerts without overburdening your office staff? Notification systems go a long way in saving time and using personnel resources wisely.

Is your staff equipped with the digital tools to easily communicate with the greater community? No teacher has the spare time to type in a classroom full of parent emails for an outgoing message. Laborious tasks like this could deter outreach efforts.

With the right permissions in place, school staff could be designated (teachers, counselors, principal) to easily create and send messages to recipients.

School notifications and daily communication

It’s simply good practice to keep parents plugged in to improve student behavior, achievement, attendance, and to spur community involvement. And parents will appreciate the instant notification when inclement weather calls for a delay or closure allowing time for parents to shuffle around their schedule. School boards will also appreciate that schools can be proactive to lessen the load of debt carried over from unpaid lunch balances by making parents aware of low account balances.

School notifications can be used for both voice and text messages, and there are an abundance of practical ways you can use them, even when it’s not an emergency or weather issue. Here are a few handfuls of examples of the kind of information that can be shared through a school notification system:

  • School closing and delay notifications
  • Automated attendance notifications
  • Automated lunch alerts & lunch menus
  • Parent programming
  • Discipline concerns
  • Budget Hearings for School District
  • Late bus pick-up/drop-off
  • Overdue library books
  • Field trip reminders
  • Standardized test schedules
  • Early release reminders
  • Academic advising appointments
  • Reminders of tryout dates/times
  • Grade reports
  • College application deadlines

Attendance incident proves need for school notification

A recent incident in San Diego, California where two middle school girls ditched school for the day, demonstrate how a notification system could have alerted the parents that something was amiss with their students’ attendance that day. Fortunately, the girls were safe and spent the day at a museum, but this story could have taken a different turn leaving the school accountable since the parents didn’t learn of their child’s absence until dismissal.

An attendance alert would have prevented this issue once the students were flagged with an unexcused absence. Now the school system is exploring ways to improve their notification system.

School notification systems for safety and security

Lessons can also be gleaned from a case last winter in a high school in Memphis, Tennessee where mixed messages swirled around the community after a weapon was reported on school grounds. Due to differing messages from the school and local police authorities, students and parents were unclear if the school was conducting a drill or in the midst of a real lockdown. A great case for having a more effective school notification system.

When information is more than time-sensitive, hinging on every moment for a successful outcome, school emergency notifications are pivotal to student safety and security. Time shouldn’t be wasted digging up contact information, dialing out, and waiting for an answer on the other end when matters turn urgent.

Such swift and open communication also works to quell parent nerves. Clear and immediate school notification helps to dispel rumors and minimize confusion, especially when tech savvy students catch wind of school news and begin texting their parents for more details. No parent wants to be blindsided by their panic-stricken child asking about a school incident without any information.

When used appropriately, messages disseminated through school notification systems are clear to understand and require brevity leaving little room for interpretation.

Streamlined communication

School notification systems streamline communication as the technology integrates across multiple platforms including social media, websites, and mobile apps.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set stringent guidelines that schools must adhere to requiring they have consent from parents/guardians before automatic phone calls or messages go out.

Granting user preferences on how to be reached (via email, phone, text/SMS) and the type of content received, schools can ensure targeted outreach. Parents receive the kind of information they want through their preferred channel.


Parents are eager to stay attuned to the many facets of their child’s life, especially within the realm of education. Automated alerts and messages create an effortless way for parents to stay informed and actively support their student. By utilizing a school notification system, parents can feel more connected to your school community and invested in their child’s overall success.

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Topics: Communication School Districts Private schools

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About the author

As co-founder of SchoolNow, Steve believes behind every great school is great communication. He's on a mission to continue to simplify communications for school administrators and help them boost engagement with parents and the entire school community.