Absence notification only part of complex school info systems

Oct 29, 2012 by

School districts looking to improve efficiency and manage tight budgets are on a quest to streamline management of data about everything from student finances to grades — and even notification of parents and guardians when their student isn’t in class.

But after 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway didn’t make it to school Oct. 5, questions have popped up about protocols for reporting thousands of absent Colorado kids to parents daily.

Witt Elementary School called the girl’s mother and left a message, following protocol for Jefferson County Public Schools.

The mother, who worked night shifts, slept through the call and became aware that her daughter was missing only late in the afternoon.

By the time the message was received, Jessica was gone. Her body was found Oct. 10 near Pattridge Park Open Space in Arvada.

Jeffco uses a tiered system of notification. There are automated alerts for high school students, and secretaries typically call the number on file for absent elementary students.

“Our experience is that elementary parents like the personal contact from the school,” said Lynn Setzer, school district spokeswoman.

Large-scale information systems have become a standard in a culture with megadistricts that manage tens of thousands of students daily, Setzer said. The systems, she said, ease the strains on school staff and help districts operate efficiently.

About 5 percent to 10 percent of the 85,000 county students are absent each day, Setzer said. Individual calls would be nearly impossible, which is where comprehensive student-information systems step in.

Jefferson County schools uses SchoolMessenger to send alerts on topics ranging from absences to emergencies by text message, e-mail or voice mail. No changes have been made since Jessica disappeared Oct. 5, though Setzer said “much discussion” is expected.

Absence notification only part of complex school info systems – The Denver Post.

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