Sunnyside schools launch text alert system

— The growth of school lockdowns — and lockouts — is causing all kinds of anxiety and countless phone calls to the schools.

That’s making schools seek and implement the best and quickest notification systems to keep parents and the general public informed up to the minute.

The latest lockouts took place on May 31 at the Outlook and Sierra Vista Schools. There was nothing wrong there, but the Yakima County Sheriff was conducting apprehension operation in the area.

When the sheriff or Sunnyside Police conduct such operations near schools, they notify the schools so they can react accordingly.

A lockdown, the school district advised, is when students are not allowed to leave. A lockout is when others can’t come into. Either way, parents and others want details as quickly as possible.

According to Communications Diector Jessica Morgan, Sunnyside School District will begin using SchoolMessenger to deliver short message service text messages straight to cell phones.

These texts will contain important information during emergency situations including inclement weather and safety situations. The text alerts will b available for staff, parents, and guardians. 

To receive the texts, subscribers must opt-in by texting “Y” or “YES” to 67587, our school district’s short code number.

Morgan said an invitation to opt in was sent on May 30 to the phone numbers the district has on file for each family. If at any time someone wants to stop the text alerts, they can simply reply with “STOP” to any of the messages that are received,” Morgan said. 

“SchoolMessenger is compliant with the Student Privacy Pledge, so subscribers’ information is safe and will never be given out or sold to anyone,” Morgan said.

Morgan said most cell phones support this type of text messaging. The notification provider, SchoolMessenger, uses a true short message service protocol developed by the telecommunications industry specifically for mass text messaging, referred to as “short code” texting.

This method is fast, secure and highly reliable because it is strictly regulated by the wireless carriers and only allows access to approved providers. If you’ve ever sent a text vote to a TC show to a number like 46999, you have used shortcode texting.

“As a school district, we strive to provide the most complete and in-time information possible during emergency  and inclement weather situations. Below is a complete list of methods we use for communicating messages to staff and families.

Inclement Weather: Messages posted to District website, Facebook page, local news stations, and text alerts to staff and families.

Emergency Situations (Lock Out, Lock Down, Evacuation and Reunification): Messages posted to District website, Facebook and Twitter, text alert sent to staff and families.

In the event that more information needs to be sent, Morgan said, a robo-call will be used with a recorded message playing back on the District’s notification line at 509-836-8404.



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