School Board authorizes contract for new communications services bundle

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Edmonds School District families and community members may soon be able to customize how they receive messages from the district, as it will soon consolidate their communications packages into one comprehensive package.

The Edmonds School Board last week voted to authorize a new three-year communications contract with West Interactive Services, a company that is able to offer several of the district’s current communications systems through one package. The contract authorized on Feb. 14 begins on June 1, though it may take some time for improvements to be installed.

Right now, the district uses two companies to separately manage their internal website, external website, phone calls and emails. That means, for example, if it snows and school is cancelled, communications staff need to sign in and edit each system separately.

“The intent is to consolidate those resources,” Chris Bailey, IT operations manager for the Edmonds School District, said.

That would allow staff members to update everything in one place, rather than log into multiple separate systems every time something needed to be changed, according to Amanda Ralston, district webmaster. With the new system, one change would simultaneously update the banner on the website and send notifications to families.

This will also make it possible for staff members to focus on keeping the content on its website current.

The contract is also expected to save money for the district by consolidating, which will allow for bigger changes in the future. For example, staff members anticipate an app for the district, which could allow parents to receive push notifications to their cell phones.

“It’s a more streamlined way for our schools to communicate with families,” said Sarah Luczyk, technology projects coordinator for the Edmonds School District.

The app or the website are both also expected to be able to allow families to customize how they are communicated with. That way, a who parent only wants to receive phone calls in an emergency, but wants emails for schedule changes or other updates can change those settings, for example. A different parent who wants updates through every medium anytime something happens can have their settings programmed that way.

“Our community is diverse, and the way they want to be communicated with are diverse,” Bailey said.

Text messages, an app and some social media channels are all within the scope of the communications update. However, it remains unclear when exactly such new projects will roll out. A timeline may become clearer as the contract gets closer to beginning in June.

The contract amount is $205,602.03, plus tax, and is funded by the 2012 and 2016 technology levies.

To read the contract authorization voted on by the School Board last week, click here.

–By Natalie Covate

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