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Detroit Lakes parents to get instant alerts

DETROIT LAKES - Parents in Detroit Lakes won't have to play the waiting game anymore to find out about winter school closures.

Instead, parents will just be able to check their e-mail inboxes or text messages for school news.

And it will roll out this upcoming school year as the Detroit Lakes School Board approved installing Honeywell's "Instant Alert" system during its regular monthly meeting on Monday morning.

As part of the deal, the school district will pay Honeywell $7,245 per year during the three-year contract.

"The popularity of instant alert and these alert systems has gained momentum in the last two or three years," said Superintendent Doug Froke.

Using Honeywell's computer systems, district administrators control what is being sent out. Alerts can include serious items such as school closures or give out information on events.

The alert system is also tailored to send messages individually to parents to give them notice of a sick child at school, for example.

It is also customizable, as participants in the system determine how they receive the alerts and at what times.

"The thing that drove it for us during the course of the year was during the April snowstorms when we had a fourth-grade class in St. Paul leaving early," Froke said. "We had to get on the radio and said they were leaving early and will be here at this time.

"Well, subsequently they didn't meet the arrival time and were an hour late. The weather became more and more difficult. That would have been a classic example of shooting out an alert to fourth-grade parents."

Froke added that the system is compatible with Skyward - the district's system that allows parents to access their child's records.

He said that the integration with an existing system would save both time and money because the Instant Alert System can pull information from Skyward - saving the district from manually entering in most of the data.

The Instant Alert system will need to be tweaked to determine what info needs to be sent out as an alert. Froke said that, once Instant Alert is up and running, that issue will be worked through.

"You don't want to do overkill with the it, the cry-wolf thing," said Board member Thomas Seaworth. "If they're getting 30 alerts a day, they are going to start ignoring it. You want to use it as an alert system.

"You can use it as an information system, but you want to be careful with it. But I think it will accepted by many people in this day and age."

In the other major action taken by the board, a new section of kindergarten will be added to Rossman Elementary.

With the addition of a new section, there will be 10 sections of kindergarten throughout the district.

Froke said that the district's finance committee made a determination earlier this summer that if kindergarten enrollment exceeded 203 students on July 10, a new section would be added.

"The number today sits at 207," Froke said.

There are also 25 undecided students who could still enroll.

If the enrollment number jumps up to 226, Froke said the committee determined yet another section should be added.

"I think that's pretty safe," he said. "I don't know if we'll see that."

To accommodate the move, a special education section plans to move to Roosevelt Elementary.

The results of the last school year's MCA-II results were brought up during Froke's superintendent's report.

Test scores were similar to last year's, with the major need being that older student's tend to not perform as well on the tests as students in earlier grades.

"There's something that's not making sense," Seaworth said.

Seaworth said that trend shouldn't be solved using a quick-fix solution. He added that an answer should be driven by data and facts.

"It seems we're losing ground," Seaworth said. "That seems to be a trend for a number of years here. I think that should be a real priority for our staff to fix that."