OTTUMWA — Upcoming computer changes mean the school will send out some information a bit differently.
Most parents in Ottumwa have discovered that a text message from the school district is more reliable than a long-forgotten, crumpled-up announcement in their child's backpack.
"Mass text messaging" has become popular locally. If the Ottumwa school district has to let kids out early due to slick roads, the superintendent types one text, puts it on Ed Alert! and every parent who subscribed gets a text on their phone or an email: School's getting out at 1 p.m.
As of July 1, the district will no longer have the Ed Alert! program.
"We're transitioning into a different Internet service," said Superintendent Davis Eidahl. "Ed Alert! was run on the old provider's system."
The new system, Power School, has its own program, Power Announcement. For parents, the changeover will not be automatic. However, signing up will be done in much the same way as Ed Alert! at the beginning of each school year.
"Ed Alert! has been available since we started with this company, probably four years ago," said Kim Hellige, director of community programs. "It's a really good system that allows us to communicate with our families very quickly."
But the new program, Power Announcement, looks just as good or better, she said.
Officials say to avoid clutter, they'll purge the old system of names and numbers. At the beginning of the school year, parents will again be able to sign up. At its maximum participation, the mass communication system had 4,000 members: students, teachers, parents and some community members interested in school status.
The district is also on Twitter and got on Facebook not quite two years ago.
"We're always looking for ways to expand our ways of communicating with stakeholders," Eidahl said. "Everyone has a comfort level with different technology."
The Ed Alert! program is expected to cut off July 1. "Opt in" for the new system will be in August. Watch school social media for details.
— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark