When our school district wanted to replace existing classroom communications apps nearly four years ago, we searched for a solution that could streamline our operations, provide oversight of all communications, and adhere to our district’s privacy requirements. We found what we were looking for in a safe and secure platform for all school-home communications.
Now, all campuses, departments, and teachers use the platform to send phone, text, email, and app notifications to parents via a unified solution. Parents have one place to go for school-home communications. Our district can maintain good communication oversight from the district level to the classroom, ensure compliance, and save time.
Five Benefits of a District-Wide Communication Platform
Here are five ways our school-home communication platform helps us work smarter, better, and faster:
- Streamline volunteer background checks. We were using a separate volunteer management platform to handle the background checks and the process was time-consuming for both staff and parents. We worked with our communications platform partner, ParentSquare, to integrate the background check process into our communication platform. Now parents (via their existing accounts) can start their background checks with no additional login required. The platform handles submitting the form to the background check provider; when results are returned, the volunteer record is updated immediately.
- Organize volunteer signups. Our platform also ensures that only parents and volunteers who have completed their background check are allowed to volunteer. For everyone else, signups are disabled. This means that school administrators and teachers no longer have to manually verify volunteer status.
- Accelerate manual processes. Because our school-home platform is cloud-based, we no longer need as much IT support, nor do we have to manage data synchronization. We field fewer help requests than before and have fewer platforms and data sync processes to maintain. We can turn around requests for new forms, permission slips, and background checks in a fraction of the time that it used to take.
- Improve attendance notifications. Before syncing our attendance information with the platform, our district’s system could only notify parents of unexcused absences at the end of the day. This created considerable lag time both for parents and for the school when it came to determining whether students skipped class or if they missed school for legitimate reasons. Now, unexcused absence notifications are sent out twice a day, and parents can excuse an absence immediately via the app or desktop portal. This saves our school staff considerable time that used to be spent clearing voicemail
messages and manually updating student records.
- Use forms to gather information. We can easily send permission slips, media releases, or address verification forms right to parents. Recently, our administrators approached the district tech team, requesting help getting parent permission for a language proficiency test run through a third-party company. Using our communications platform, we set up a new form and sent it right out to parents. We delivered that form electronically and as an attachment to print, sign, and bring in (parents could choose whichever method they preferred). The tech team delivered quickly, staff had less administrative overhead, and we received parent replies much faster than we would have with our old system.
822,000 Messages and Growing
During the 2020-21 school year, approximately 174 district messages, 4,816 school messages, 22,842 classroom messages, 3,510 group messages, and 822,000 direct messages were generated across the district.
With our school-home communication platform, we also have metrics and dashboards for
tracking which schools, principals, staff, and teachers are communicating with our parents. We
can also track how many parents open messages and how they respond. Having this district-wide insight has been invaluable.
John Karstetter is a communications specialist at Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD.