A few times a week, a Greenwood mother’s phone rings with a call from her daughter’s school about upcoming testing, events or delays and closings.
Caryn Turrel doesn’t mind the calls because that is the easiest way for her to stay in touch with what’s going on at Greenwood Community High School.
At local schools, automated call systems have been the primary way to pass along information to parents for years, after replacing newsletters. That means when winter weather causes a delay or closing, parents’ phones are ringing as early as 6 a.m. And when testing dates approach, they are reminded to have their children eat a good breakfast and get plenty of rest.
School officials also have worked toward making the calls more specific and tailored to only parents that need the message. For example, if Greenwood schools wanted to call to parents of 8-year-old elementary students. Principals also can use the call system for messages solely for their school, Superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.
Franklin schools would like to find a way to allow parents to customize what they receive automated calls about, but that change could still be a few years away, said Matt Sprout, Franklin schools director of technology.
“We use feedback from parents to manage our system, but you can’t meet everybody’s wish,” Sprout said. “We would love a call system where parents are able to self-maintain and go by their own preference.”
The call service has been in place at Greenwood for about 10 years, and the only complaint is after a student graduates or moves and their number needs to be taken off the list, DeKoninck said. Most parents appreciate the service because it keeps them informed about final exam dates, ISTEP testing and other events, DeKoninck said.
School officials have a focus of being brief, but informative.
“Let’s utilize this so people feel like it’s worth their time to listen,” DeKoninck said. “For most parents, it makes them feel connected. Students don’t always tell their parents everything.”
At Franklin, messages are not to exceed about 45 seconds to make sure parents don’t avoid calls because of how long it takes to listen to the messages, Sprout said.
“Once you get past about 45 seconds in a message, people start hanging up,” he said.
The calls don’t bother Turrel, and in most instances they provide her with information she knows her daughter would forget to tell her about, Turrel said.
“I don’t think there will ever be a way to inform parents and everyone likes how it’s done. I would rather make sure I get what info I need to know. My daughter is 17 and terrible about telling me stuff,” Turrel said.
Greenwood resident Tiffany Clements found she was on the call list after her 4-year-old son started speech therapy at Westwood Elementary.
Last week, she received as many as three calls reminding her that the school’s spring festival is approaching and how to keep her kids focused in the weeks leading up to spring break, Clements said.
“They’re not very important phone calls — spring fling is coming, dining for dollars. I need to get off this call list. It annoys me,” Clements said.
Traci Prescott would rather receive a text message, she said. Text messages are a better way to reach parents because people don’t talk on the phone as much as they used to, Prescott said.
And when Clark-Pleasant schools have called her, the reason hasn’t always been relevant to her child. For example, Prescott has been called about football sign-ups when her son wasn’t old enough to play, she said.
“People don’t answer their phones as much as they used to. So, too many calls can wear people out,” Prescott said.