Friday, September 26, 2014

District adding text messaging capabilities to mass notification system

San Diego Unified will soon have a new way to communicate with its employees and families.

On Oct. 22, the district will be adding text messaging capabilities to SchoolMessenger, the mass notification system it now uses to deliver important information by phone and email to its stakeholders.

The system will be configured to send text messages to cell phone numbers in SchoolMessenger whose recipients have agreed to receive them. Employees and parents are encouraged to opt-in now to receive texts.

“We have heard from principals that some parents would like to receive texts so we are making this option available to school sites as another means of communication,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “This new tool aligns with the Board of Education’s focus in 2014 on enhancing communications and parent engagement as outlined in Vision 2020.”

The district and its school sites currently have the option of sending recipients either a voice or email message, or both. Now they will also have the ability to send text messages, expanding the tools they can utilize to communicate with parents and staff. It is important to note, however, that recipients will only receive text messages if they opt-in, have a cell phone number on file with the district and the message sender provides content for a text message.

The district will likely limit its use of text messaging to emergency situations, such as lockdowns, in which short, quick communication is helpful. Texts may also direct individuals to an email or a website for more information.

“SchoolMessenger uses short code texting, which is highly reliable and fast because it’s regulated by the wireless carriers,” added Jennifer Rodriguez, the district’s SchoolMessenger liaison. “Our goal is to make sure that the district and its schools have all the tools they need to effectively communicate each day, but especially during emergencies.”

The district will be encouraging all stakeholders throughout October to opt-in to receiving texts. To do this, recipients can text “Yes” to 68453 from each mobile device at which they wish to receive text messages. Should you opt-in and no longer wish to receive messages, or vice versa, the process for switching preferences is simple; either text “YES” or “STOP” to 68453.

For those that have not opted-in on their own, a reminder message will be sent district-wide Oct. 22 to all cell phone numbers on file reminding individuals to opt-in. The message will read “San Diego Unified text messages. Reply Y for aprx 3 msgs/mo. Txt HELP 4info. Msg&data rates may apply. See”

The reminder text message is sent on the same day, Oct. 22, that district and school sites can start sending text messages to individuals that have opted-in.

The district will send reminders throughout the school year to encourage recipients to opt-in. Information about text messaging is available on the district’s Communications Department webpage.