LEMONT – The Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District 113A Board of Education unanimously approved a three-year contract for a new emergency communication system that will give the district more ways to contact parents during its Oct. 16 meeting.
The contract with Blackboard Connect/Alert Now will cost $3,262.50 per year.
With the new system, parents will be able to receive emergency messages through multiple phone numbers, email and text messages.
Assistant Superintendent Mary Gricus, who presented the system to the board, said the district hopes to have all the contact data transferred to the new system by January, after which the parents will be able to customize their contact information.
Gricus said a text message feature, which the district does not have, would have been useful when Old Quarry Middle School was on lockdown recently because of a bomb threat.
"An email was sent to parents, but parents might not have that email available during the day," she said.
The cost of the new system is an increase from the current system provided by Easy Link/Xpedite, which is a minimum of $1,200 each year, with an additional charge each time it is used.
But Gricus said the current system is basic and is not user-friendly.
She said the district is limited to one phone number and one e-mail address per family for communications because it would have to pay for additional numbers.
Also, because this system's charges are based on per use fees, the district limits use primarily to emergencies and communications regarding significant events, she said.
The cost of the new system is a flat rate based on the number of students, giving the district unlimited phone calls, texts and emails.
Gricus said the district will be able to use the new system to send out more messages on less urgent matters, such as school events and tests.
She said the district has gotten feedback from parents about receiving too many emails and it will be up to the district to determine how to most effectively use the new system, which could lead to an increase in phone messages.
The system also includes foreign language options, though Gricus said the translations are sometimes too literal.
Gricus said the district will look at the viability of using other features that send out individualized notifications about behavior issues and library and cafeteria fees.
"We may not use those features initially but we want those options open to us," she said.
Board President Cindy Kelly was excited about the new system and how it fit into the district's goal for increased communication with parents.
"It just covers everything," she said. "It's comprehensive."
Features available with Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District 113A's new communication system include:
• Unlimited phone calls, texts and emails
• Notifications about attendance, behavior and library and cafeteria fees
• Language options, including Polish and Spanish
• Ability for parents to customize phone numbers and messages they receive