Ring, ring ... NKSD calling

POULSBO — Answer the phone, it could be the North Kitsap School District with an important emergency message.

NKSD’s launched a new telephone communication system, AlertNow, for attendance and emergency purposes. It’s a system that’s far more efficient than anything NKSD’s ever had before.

Within five minutes of an emergency, the district can place a notification call to all NKSD families.

Director of Communications Chris Case said in the past if school was delayed or closed due to weather, phone tree notification was used, or parents had to listen to the radio, watch television, or call the district’s emergency line.

Not any longer.

“You’ll get a call at home very early in the morning to let you know school’s delayed or if it’s closed,” Case said. “And you’ll only get one call for all the kids.”

The system has already been in place for attendance notifications. Case said parents used to get an electronic sort of “gibberish” call. Now the call is clear, states which student missed what periods and provides a number to call to get the absence excused. Evening call times are varied to try and out-smart students waiting to intercept the you-skipped-class call.

Later this year NKSD will vamp up notification even more, as it’s currently only available to place attendance and district-wide emergency calls. Case said the AlertNow system, which is operated out of state, has the ability to place grade-level or sports teams specific emergency calls.

“If third-graders are on a field trip, the ferry broke down and they’ll all be late, the system can call all the parents of those third-graders,” Case said using a hypothetical. “Sports teams. We can get specific information to just those particular parents.”

Case said winter and spring sports will be added once the district knows the teams, and there’s the possibility bus routes may also make the calling list.

AlertNow can place calls in a spectrum of languages and all families will receive a message in their native language.

Case said AlertNow will only be used for “important” notifications and the messages will be very brief.

“We’re careful not to bug people if we don’t have to,” she said. “We’re always looking for new and better ways to communicate quickly. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to communicate in ways we never could before.”

AlertNow costs the district less than its previous calling set up.

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