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Willmar has new means to notify parents of school closings

WILLMAR -- The Willmar School District has a new ways to notify parents if school is closed for the day, starting late or closing early.

Starting with the next snowstorm or emergency, a system called Campus Messenger will be used to call all Willmar parents at nearly the same time.

Campus Messenger is part of a package of computer software used by the district. The software system also includes Parent Portal, which allows parents to use the Internet to check on their children's progress.

Messenger will use an Internet-based calling system to call contact numbers for each family at the same time. Considering that some callbacks to busy numbers will be required, all families should be notified within about 20 minutes, said Jessie Olson, student information systems coordinator.

The message from the district will tell parents about the school closing or delayed opening, and it will direct them to the district's Web site for more information.

The district will also continue to notify local and statewide media about closings.

The phone numbers used will be those designated as the family's main contact number at registration time. If that number has changed, parents should send a note to their children's school office.

It's likely that school closing or late start phone calls will come early in the morning, probably between 5:30 and 6 a.m., said Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington.

School officials don't know yet if they'll get complaints about the early hour of the calls. They haven't needed to use the system since it was activated last week.

"We want to get the information out as quickly as we can," Harrington said, and she expects that parents will want to know as early possible.

The district has had the Messenger system for some time but didn't have enough dedicated phone lines to use it until now, Harrington said.

The system could also be used in the future to notify families of low lunch account balances or attendance issues.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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