East Lycoming School District is located in the eastern portion of Lycoming County in Central Pennsylvania. ELSD serves 1650 students from pre-K to 12th grade.
For East Lycoming School District (ELSD), finding a way to push time sensitive information instantly to parents in a way they prefer to receive it was important. “Gone are the days when parents are going to go to your school’s website, especially when time sensitive information is involved,” said ELSD School Superintendent Mike Pawlik.
“In today’s society, parents want information that is short and to the point and gives them just the right amount of information they need. Our challenge was how to get a hold of parents in a way they prefer to receive school communication.”
Instantly Reach Parents With Text Messaging
ELSD knew that text messaging was the right technology to use. The school district uses many communication channels to reach parents. For instance, it still has its website, sends email newsletters and voice messages by phone and posts on social media. But, it found that texting parents was most effective for time sensitive information. “I think it puts parents’ minds at ease in many situations,” said Pawlik.
Director of Technology Adam Creasy agrees: “When you send a text to any phone, it is in your face.You can’t ignore it. Texting doesn’t require parents to install an app or something else because it is native on the phone and it is instant. Our main text group has close to 900 people on it and when we send a message, all 900 will receive it at the same time – instantly. Automated calls on the other hand may take a while to reach everybody.”
For instant communication, nothing beats text messaging. TextMarks has been very beneficial to our school district.”
Text Messaging Requires Opting-In
Another reason ELSD chose text messaging from TextMarks is because it requires parents to opt-in to receive texts. “Parents change cell phone numbers all the time,” said Creasy. “It is hard to track and keep phone number lists accurate.”
“With TextMarks, it is up to the subscriber to control whether they receive messages or not. We don’t have to update phone numbers on our end nor do we have to specify which carrier each phone number belongs to like on other texting services.”
Keep Personal Data Private
ELSD uses TextMarks text messaging system for emergency notifications as well as for sending updates and reminders. ““At a most basic level, we do use text messaging as part of our emergency plans, “ said Superintendent Pawlik. “ But we also use it to notify parents of other things like upcoming concerts or athletic events. School coaches use the text messaging system to keep in touch with players. And this school year for instance, we are sending text notifications about changes in immunization requirements which helps make sure our students are up-to-date on their vaccinations.”
No matter how East Lycoming School District uses text messaging, keeping personal data private is important. “We provide SMS keywords to our coaches and have them communicate to players using TextMarks. We don’t like for our staff to use their own phones. In today’s world, we need to document communications to students. Also, individual phone numbers cannot be seen by parents or students – either of the coach or teacher, or of other students. All they see is a message coming from 41411.”
Text Messaging: One Piece of School Communications Strategy
Pawlik explains that text messaging is effective, but is only one piece of the puzzle. Upcoming events may be posted on their website, followed by a post on Facebook. They may also send out email reminders as the event comes closer. But the night before the event, they will be sure to send out a text message reminder to parents.
“We offer multiple avenues for communications,” said Creasy. ”But we also needed something where we could get immediate contact. For instant communication, nothing beats text messaging. TextMarks has been very beneficial to our school district.”