MINNEAPOLIS - Honeywell today announced that seven Michigan school districts are or will be using Honeywell Instant Alert for Schools to keep parents and guardians informed in routine and emergency situations. The school districts include: Bloomingdale Public School District; Boyne City Public Schools; Mason County Central Schools; Mendon Community School District; Roseville Community Schools; South Haven Public Schools; and White Pigeon Community Schools.
Instant Alert is a Web-based notification service that replaces phone trees and enables school districts to deliver messages to parents and guardians within minutes via phone, cell phone, pager, e-mail and PDA. To use the service, a designated school representative sends a message online or by phone that is broadcast instantly to all the contact points parents provide. The districts in Michigan join more than 550 other schools across the country using Instant Alert to communicate news ranging from bomb threats to bus delays.
"Honeywell has been a partner to us through the years and is reputable," said J. David Myers, superintendent of South Haven Public Schools. "There's a feeling of comfort working with a company that will stand behind its product."
With Honeywell's help, South Haven applied for and received a grant as part of the Emergency Response and Crisis Management Discretionary Grant Program from the U.S. Department of Education, which provides funds to local agencies to improve and strengthen their emergency response plans. A portion of the grant will be used to install Instant Alert.
The service will enable the school to respond more quickly in emergency situations and communicate critical information to parents -- wherever they are. In addition, South Haven plans to use the system to deliver routine messages including report card distribution and event changes.
The other districts in Michigan plan to use Instant Alert primarily to inform parents of weather-related delays.
"The biggest issue in a district like ours is the geographic area we cover," said Dale Schreuder, superintendent of Bloomingdale Schools. "If we close early, there is no way to guarantee the safety of our students. Children could be going home to empty houses and we need to safeguard against that."
Similarly, administrators at Boyne City Public Schools plan to use the service to alert parents when activity buses are late.
"Being located in northern Michigan, we often encounter harsh winter conditions," said Jim Cooper, superintendent of Boyne City Public Schools. "Now when a bus breaks down due to the weather we will be able to notify parents of a late arrival."
In addition to broadcasting news to all parents, Instant Alert allows schools to develop an unlimited number of subgroups -- including sports teams, clubs, parent organizations and grade levels -- and send customized messages to these groups. Teachers and administrators can also send alerts to individual parents, which can help combat truancy.
As an added safety feature, Instant Alert uses the same Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption protocol that protects financial and banking sites. And because it is Web-based, the district does not have to install any hardware, software or additional phone lines, keeping costs low.
"In today's mobile society, knowing where and how to reach parents is a challenge for educators," said Mike Taylor, vice president of marketing for Honeywell Building Solutions. "By offering a communication service like Instant Alert, Honeywell allows schools to remain focused on their students while keeping parents connected."