Monday, December 15, 2008

Early Morning Phone Calls from Seattle Public Schools?

Did anyone else get yanked out of bed this morning with an early morning phone call from the Seattle Public Schools headquarters?

My home phone rang at 5:50 am. My husband didn't get to it in time, and no message was left, so I dialed *69 and was surprised to find out it was the school district office calling. Then ten minutes later my cell phone rang. This time, the School District left a message announcing the 2-hour delay because of icy roads.

I don't remember signing up for home phone calls in case of school delays, but I'm certainly going to call the district to ask that it not happen again. I usually get up around 5:30 or 6 am for work anyhow, but my husband and kids are sleeping and I don't want a phone call waking them up to tell them that they can sleep in longer!

Okay...that's really weird...I just got another call from the district on my home phone (this time at 6:30 am) announcing the delay. Is this a case of auto-dialing software gone crazy?

42 comments:

hschinske said...

Yes, we got that too -- landline first, then cell. Well, at least I know they have the right numbers.

Helen Schinske

Auction said...

How do you get numbers removed? Four phone calls! The first at 5:45.

momster said...

i feel sorry for sps sometimes - not only did they jolt much of the city of a deep sleep during a time when a lot of people aren't that happy with them anyway, their message on the web is not grammatically correct (huh? a hyphen? "two-hours late")

you'd like your school district to get that kind of thing right.

CS said...

I also got a call -- something I also want or need. Maybe this is an area where the district could cut costs? Sure, it's probably not a lot but if you add up all the little things that admin/operations could do away with, it might make a difference.

CS said...

Oops. Of course I meant to say "...something I don't want..."

adhoc said...

We only got one phone call, and it was at 5:43AM. I was not happy about such an early morning call, but I understand that it probably has to be that early if they want to reach HS parents in time. Many HS kids are getting on Metro at 6:30-7A (especially if they are going to a school that's not in their neighborhood).

I didn't mind the call at all, and I think it shows one more way that the district is not only communicating with parents, but being responsive to what we have asked for.

Families who don't have computers (and there are many who don't) can't get through to the district or their schools until they open at 9A. Transportation phone lines clog up early and you can't get through. For the past couple of years many parents complained about the lack of communication during snow closures.

Now SPS is communicating with us, and people are still complaining?????

THANKS SPS FOR THE COMMUNICATION!!!!! Even if it was a bit inconvenient.

adhoc said...

Maybe parents could "sign up" for notification if they want it. That way those who need it get it, and everyone else can sleep in.

CS said...

It's just like cell phones. We used to all function just fine without them. Just like we used to all function with school closures without getting phone calls as early as 5:45 a.m. Maybe it shows they're trying to communicate -- or it's a way to make up for their huge mistake last year when they didn't delay school when we had ice sheets on the roads. I don't think this is the kind of communication SPS families and the public is looking for.

jamie said...

ugh, yes my kindergartener never went back to sleep afterwards. please let us opt out!

Mercermom said...

I, too, was a little alarmed. On the other hand, what the District doesn't want is parents leaving their first-grader at the bus stop and rushing off to work . . . .

another mom said...

I have no problem with early morning calls when it concerns the safety of our kids and school employees. For Pete's sake people, lighten up.

Denise Gonzalez-Walker said...

The district tested this system in late summer. My understanding then was that the system would be used for severe weather alerts and other unexpected events.

So I wasn't surprised at all to get an early morning call.

We didn't catch it in time, but as soon as my husband saw SPS on the caller ID, I knew I would get to sleep for at least an extra hour.

I agree with Adhoc--it's not fun getting an early AM call, but I appreciate the district's effort to get out delay information via multiple channels.

Scotttom said...

Thanks for the communication SPS.
I was getting up to check the web site for school delays/closures and was happy to get the call.

People who don't want phone calls have the option to silence their phones until they're ready to interact with their world.

I do agree though, that the district ought to communicate the mechanism through which grumpy people can "opt out" so they can get the beauty sleep they so obviously need.

timeslid said...

I don't mind the call, its the reference to the snow routes that haven't been announced that bother me. Our kid mail suggests that the routes will come in late December. Too bad the weather had other ideas.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Or...the District could have made the call (both literally and figuratively) last night when all the other school districts and private schools in the area did. Then it would have been on the late night news. I was fairly surprised that SPS did not have a report up at midnight. Did they think that the roads would get magically better overnight?

Dorothy said...

We got a message on the voice mail at 5:40 AM, but it didn't wake anyone up. I was expecting the call, since we had gotten a test message about a week ago, and I was guessing on 2 hour late start for weather. I was up at my usual 6 AM.

Anticipating a call, we didn't have any phones in positions to wake us up.

I doubt it would be easy to opt out, since there would have to be all sorts of contingencies for when to override the opting out. What about situations that are not obvious like weather? What if your school was closed due to a bad boiler or something where you wouldn't think to check on-line?

They are trying to communicate and need to work out the bugs. Beth only has elementary school kids, so 5:30 probably felt a lot early for her than it would for me. Perhaps they should get a call later? Or parents could determine what time to call, so it's staggered. (Since I know some elementary school kids have before school care and would need early call.)

Please consider trying to work the bugs out and maintain communication instead of just pushing to opt out.

dj said...

I didn't mind the calls. I admit. however, that I am usually up at that time anyway.

seattle citizen said...

SolvayGirl,
My understanding is that the District waits until 5:00 AM to decide because they don't want to close un-necessarily, as it's a) disruptive and b) has to be made up (if it's over, I think, two days per year).
I'm glad they wait; there are some days/evenings when you don't know what the morning will bring. I recall a year or two ago when they cloed and the morning warmed up quickly, leading some to chastise the district for being too quick to make a decision...

agibean said...

It seems like a great idea to me. I grew up in NH, where they waited until the last possible point to call off school or start it late. It was a lot easier to get a call at 5:30 a.m. than rush to get out of bed at the "normal" wake up time and turn on the TV like I did growing up.

I agree with Scotttom-if you can't handle early calls, shut off the phone. And what kind of phone systems do you people have that the entire house wakes up when the phone rings? My kids never had phones in their rooms. Where are the phones ringing??

I use my cell for the emergency number. It is also my alarm, so when I got the call, I shut off the alarm at the same time and went back to sleep for 2 hours. It saved our whole family having to get up early when we didn't have to.

Beth Bakeman said...

agibean, I can't speak for others, but I have one phone in the house in the kitchen. When it rings, everyone in the house can hear it. We don't have a large house.

And for heavens sake, can we stop the judging all around on this topic?

When the phone rang, I thought someone had died or something else awful had happened. No one ever calls our house that early in the morning for any other reason. That's why I didn't like it.

I wasn't angry with the district. I'm glad they are trying to communicate with families in multiple ways. But I absolutely want a way to "opt out."

What works well for some families may not work well for others.

Beth Bakeman said...

And since they called all 3 of my numbers (home twice, cell, and work), it looks like they didn't just use the emergency number listed. I'm guessing they have a few kinks to work out in the system.

adhoc said...

Beth, I don't hear anyone judging you. People are just stating their opinions, and some differ from yours. Isn't that OK?? If you are going to start a thread on a topic, and state your opinion, then you should be ready to hear others opinions too.

agibean said...

Not judging, Beth, just that when the district is trying to help people stay OFF unsafe roads, it seems like a good thing! I can only imagine the hollering if there were no such calls and someone didn't know about the change in start time and got into an accident or worse.

If a phone is so loud it wakes up the entire family from one end of the house to the other, the ringer needs to be turned off at night-otherwise every wrong number or random robo call will disturb everyone-seems pretty obvious to me.

I know about emergency middle of the night calls-I have a teenager away at school and a son who used to be in the armed forces. I know the heart-pounding that comes with such a call. I still think the district is doing a good thing here.

And I'm with Adhoc-why devote a whole thread to complaining about the calls and then get annoyed with criticism?

Beth Bakeman said...

Adhoc and agibean, Different opinions are welcome and encouraged on this blog.

I object to the judgmental comments I was hearing in this thread, whether directed at me or others.

Statements like "the district ought to communicate the mechanism through which grumpy people can "opt out" so they can get the beauty sleep they so obviously need" and "And what kind of phone systems do you people have that the entire house wakes up when the phone rings? My kids never had phones in their rooms. Where are the phones ringing??" don't seem constructive or helpful in any way.

I particular object to the phrase "you people" which is almost always used to denigrate or judge a group of people who are seen to differ in some way.

momster said...

timeslid - we received the snow routes in the (US) mail last week for our middle-schooler's route.

i wonder if they post them on the website? and if they don't, could they? you would need to know your route number, probably - but if you still have your letter from the transportation dept it would be possible.

Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

We got that too. Luckily, only woke up the adults. I guess it's a good thing, for parents who're getting their kids to before school care or rely on the bus.

hschinske said...

I got two or three snow route notifications last week, and unfortunately seem to have thrown one away ... the one for the kid whose snow stop is actually (I think) different from the regular stop. I couldn't find the snow stops online and ended up driving him anyway, for various reasons.

Dunno if there are legal objections to posting school bus routes online -- there may be.

Helen Schinske

brian l said...

Beth, I'm with you. Those were definitely judgmental comments. Seems to me that the people who appreciated the calls were mostly awake then anyway. Some people have different schedules than you oh-so-proud-of-yourselves early birds (is that too judgmental of me?).

I was not happy to get the call at 5:45 (and again at 6:00) this morning. Since I don't normally get calls at that hour, I jumped out of bed expecting it to be a real emergency. For those saying to turn off the phone, you obviously haven't received an emergency call waking you from your sleep. I have.

I would also like a way to opt out of these calls. Seems to me in this day and age that we would have the technology available to handle that.

I contacted the SPS Office of Public Affairs to voice my opinion. I urge others to do the same.

Keepin'On said...

I thought it was fine - and I got 4 calls. Early - yes. but I didn't have to monitor the television while they employed the endless crawl of every closure or delay BUT Seattle's.

I also thought it was funny to read all these comments. Beth - may I buy you a cordless phone for the holidays?

I also wonder, could they take the $ invested in calling every family in the district and use it to change the assignment plan software this year? Seems that if they can make upwards of 20,000 phone calls in one morning, they can figure out how to assign 45,000 students. in the next two months.

hschinske said...

I don't see how running an autodial program and a recording costs very much, and the calls were local -- am I missing something here?

Helen Schinske

Beth Bakeman said...

Keepin'On --- Sure, I'll take the cordless phone. Thanks! And maybe some lessons on how to turn off or adjust my ringer are needed along with it. :-)

fairrweather said...

What about tomorrow....the 16th??
Is there a 2 hour delay?

Beth Bakeman said...

No news so far.

Christine E. said...

I'm not an early riser. Luckily we live close to my kid's school and I don't have to be at work until 10:00, so I'm rarely awake before 8:00 a.m. Yet I was still grateful for that very early call.

Sure, it woke me up out of a deep sleep, and I initially feared that something terrible had happened. But even so, I was glad to have been notified early enough that I could adjust my plans for the morning. (In this case, adjusting my plans meant turning off my alarm and catching a welcome extra hour of sleep! But others might have needed the early notification so they could make alternate before-school care or work arrangements.)

I'm pleased that the School District has an effective way to contact all families who have a phone. Lots of families at my kid's school don't have computers, and there are quite a few who don't have TVs either by choice, or because they can't afford cable and can't get decent reception without it.

The phone calls may be a nuisance, but the alternative is not getting important news out to all families of public school kids in a timely manner.

h2o girl said...

Don't most people have a radio though? I shouldn't assume anything, but this is our 7th year in SPS and somehow we survived every winter without a phone call at 5:45 am telling me that school was two hours late. Totally annoying, honestly. School will also be two hours late Tuesday - it's on the district website now. Hopefully they won't call again!

Beth Bakeman said...

Thanks for the news, h20 girl! I'm turning my phone ringer off now.

Eric B said...

I have heard that this robo-caller will be available for individual school communities to use as a way to get in touch with their communities. On one hand, I think that it is a great idea. I know that when I was a PTSA person, there was nothing like inviting people by phone to get people to an event - it also took a huge number of parent hours. On the other hand, I HATE ROBO CALLS!!!

SE Mom said...

This morning, Tuesday, I appreciated hearing the phone ringing early. I knew it was the district and I could go back to sleep without getting up at all
to turn on the radio, tv or computer.

Christine E. said...

somehow we survived every winter without a phone call at 5:45 am telling me that school was two hours late.

Yes, already well-functioning families always got the info about school closures in whatever way they needed. But a lot of Seattle's kids are in families who are very new to this country, or are chaotic or stressed to the limit. They're the ones whose families were most likely not to have gotten notified in time for a safe option to be found for the kids. I think of the robocalls as an annoying but necessary way to get important messages out to all families. The district just put up some FAQs about the system on the site, and they say they're still refining it.

Eric B, the robocall system is already available to individual schools. My kid's school has used it a couple of times recently to remind parents of important meetings and events. It's been the more effective by far than anything else we've tried for getting the word out.

Beth Bakeman said...

There's a story on the Seattle Public Schools site about this now which says you can't opt out, but you can change or remove numbers.


This is one of the things I like about our "new" Seattle Public Schools administration. They actually heard customer feedback, made some changes, and posted a story about it.

adhoc said...

Yes, Beth, that was my point in my earlier post.

The district is trying to be responsive.

A couple of years ago people complained because the district canceled school too early, and the weather they expected never came. They listened and now they wait until midnight to close schools.

A couple of years ago families complained because of the lack of communication during inclement weather. Now they call us to make sure we are notified.

Now some families are saying the early morning calls are disturbing, and they are making public a way to remove your number from the system.

I have to say that I am so proud of the way the district is being responsive to the public. It is what we have been asking for for years.

Dorothy said...

Didn't a tragedy happen a couple years ago when a family didn't know school was closed, sent their daughter and then didn't realize she was missing until after she was due home in the afternoon? She was murdered. Not in Seattle, but somewhere in Western Washington.

Post-Katrina and all that, all the talk is emergency preparedness and our principal told us that was one big reason for the new system -- to contact parents in cases of earthquake, etc. Now that's a bit odd perhaps because the last thing you want to do in an earthquake is tie up phone lines, but whatever, at least they are thinking ahead and anything this big is going to have bugs to work out.

Brian, I am not an early bird by choice! If high school started at a sane hour, there's no way I'd be up at 6 am. Don't jump to conclusions.

Can we all start bitching about no school today, when it was 34 degrees outside at 6 am when I woke up and steadily climbing since then? Hasn't even started raining yet. Well, I can't moan too much, because the weather is fickle, who could'a known!