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Superior schools to test emergency parent notification plan today

Vandals spray-painted the sides of Superior High School on Sept. 29. Amid the colorful mess was a bomb threat. Not knowing whether the threat was serious or nothing more than paint, Principal Kent Bergum canceled school. Later that same day, Supe...

Vandals spray-painted the sides of Superior High School on Sept. 29. Amid the colorful mess was a bomb threat.

Not knowing whether the threat was serious or nothing more than paint, Principal Kent Bergum canceled school. Later that same day, Superior Middle School was placed on lockdown when it was reported a student was heading there with a gun.

Since then, the district has developed an emergency notification system. District staff members compiled emergency numbers for a system that will call parents almost immediately if an emergency occurs.

Today, the district will have its first test of that system, an event planned long before the shootings this week at Virginia Tech. Parents or guardians of Superior public school students should receive a call sometime in the morning with a message concerning the test. The recorded voice message will go out to parents in a three- to five-minute period.

Any parents who don't receive a call or voice message should notify their children's school to update their emergency numbers. Anyone who receives a call in error should contact any school or the district office to report it.

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Before the new system, the only way to contact parents about emergency events was through the news media. The schools had no way to contact individual parents. On Sept. 29, students at the high school used cell phones and building phones to call home. Other parents found out about the bomb threat as they dropped their children off for the day.

"A lot of informal communication was going on outside the building," Bergum said. There wasn't a system in place to contact all the individual parents, so the school didn't attempt it.

That eventful day caused the district to examine its emergency notification capabilities, said Sam Jones, director of information technology.

"We realized we have no way to quickly inform parents that school would get out early," he said. "Every once in a while, there's an incident, and that was the one that really hit home that we need to get information to parents quickly."

"In order for this to work, the public needs to help us be sure we have the right phone number on file for their child," Jones said.

In case of an emergency at one school, only parents or guardians of children at that school would be notified through the system. The system has the capacity to include two emergency numbers for each parent or guardian, so it could call four phones concerning one student.

Parents can include a home number as well as a cell phone number or two. Any phone number will work as long as it doesn't require an extension. Because it is an automated system, only direct lines work, Jones said.

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