District introduces Parent Square to replace current call-out system

Candace Taggart, Feature Editor

The district introduced Parent Square, a new call-out system, in the second week of March. The updated system includes new features.
“I’m hoping this will improve and increase parent engagement,” technology director Karen Brunker said. “It’s going to send out texts and phone calls like our old call-out system, but it’s also going to be able to do so much more. I’m so excited to get it up and running.”
Brunker compared Parent Square’s abilities to programs like Class Dojo, Remind or sportsYou that are used in the elementary and high schools respectively.
“It’s going to have the ability to do the same things as those apps, such as allowing teachers to communicate with specific classes or grade levels, as well as individual messages to students and parents,” Brunker said. “We’ll even be able to use it to send out pictures or awards like sportsYou.”
Junior high teacher Ashley Ridenour said the old call-out system was redundant with the phone calls and texts.
“Parent Square has more access compared to Remind since we don’t have to get all the students and parents to sign up because the school already has everybody’s information,” Ridenour said. “I’m glad it puts all faculty on one program instead of multiple.”

I think an app for all teachers will be a lot better because it helps students be timely and keeps parents informed”

— sophomore Kate Fletcher

On the other hand, first grade teacher Tiarra Truette said she had no issue with the old call-out system.
“I personally use Class Dojo for my classes,” Truette said. “Through that, I can send messages, reminders of upcoming events and any other back and forth between parents needed throughout the day like for pick up. I even use it to send pictures from the classroom to parents.”
According to Brunker, the old call-out system wasn’t “faulty,” but the contract the school used for it was up, so they decided to go in a new direction.
“The company Gabbart Communications bought out our website, so we were already going to use Gabbart’s “Notify” system, but then Parent Square bought out Gabbart,” Brunker said. “It’s also going to serve as our app, so that we can post things similar to our Facebook feed.”
Sophomore Kate Fletcher said the old call-out system wasn’t effective because some of the alerts weren’t sent out far enough ahead of time.
“I think an app for all teachers will be a lot better because it helps students be timely and keeps parents informed,” Fletcher said.
Truette said her kids in seventh grade just used Remind, but there hasn’t been a lot of communication through it recently.
“I think this program will improve communication because everybody will be getting the same information from the same source at the same time,” Truette said.
Brunker said that teachers really didn’t use the previous school messenger, and that it was mostly used by administration for school-wide alerts.
“With Parent Square we can do the same thing as well as class-wide announcements instead of so many different avenues to talk through like Class Dojo, Remind, sportsYou, Whatsapp, etc.,” she said. “We can now mainstream it all into one system that’s backed up, and it’ll be good that we’re all in one place.”
Fletcher is in athletics and uses sportsYou to stay updated.
“SportsYou is a way for coaches to give us heads up on times for games and meets, as well as what we’re doing in practices,” Fletcher said. “Apps like these and Parent Square are important because students aren’t always reliable with information.”
Ridenour said that as a parent and teacher she looks forward to learning and introducing this program.
“The biggest adjustment will be learning how to use it,” she said. “It seemed easy to use when I added my own kids, and as a faculty member, it was easy to set up my classes.”
Parent Square has a side where the school can send secure documents, so Brunker said in the future, report cards and permission slips or any form that requires a response can be sent over the app for junior high and high school.
“The back and forth between parents and school faculty can become more efficient this way,” Brunker said. “There’s even a calendar with slots similar to the website Signup Genius, so that planning events where parents and students need to sign up is also easier.”