Iowa City schools increasing options for notification

IOWA CITY — It took more than two hours for the Iowa City school district’s voice message about Tuesday’s weather-related early release to reach students’ families.

Superintendent Steve Murley was aware of the delay, tracking the progress of the message on a computer after he phoned it in.

“It took an extra long time yesterday,” he said. “We’re not sure why.”

The system moved faster Tuesday evening. Within 30 minutes of recording a second message saying Wednesday’s classes would be canceled, Murley’s phone rang with the automated message. Another hour passed before the message was received by all district families.

Murley said the delay is inexcusable.

“We’re already looking at methodologies we can use to get the word out faster,” he said.

David Dude, the district’s new director of information services, established two of those new tools yesterday — a phone number and a Twitter account, both specifically set up for district notifications about events such as school closings and early dismissals.

The phone number — (319) 688-1234 — is up and running. The twitter account, @ICCSDnotify, also is active.

Recognizing that many families depend on the phone call alerting them to early outs, late starts or cancellations, Murley said the district will look at how to improve service.

Murley said the district had switched to a revised system to save money.

“In light of yesterday, in hindsight, that might not have been our best move,” he said.

The school district’s telephone notification system, powered by Global Connect, has about 58,000 phone numbers in its system. That’s about four times the number of students enrolled, because most families have multiple contacts.

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