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Monday, Aug. 27: BC parents can OPT IN to receive emergency text messages

Filed in Archive, District, District News by on August 24, 2018

In an effort to strengthen emergency communications for families, the Bethlehem Central School District is introducing text messaging and automated phone calls through School Messenger. 

The School Messenger system will fully replace School News Notifier (SNN) for district and school communications in 2018-19. School Messenger was used during the 2017-18 school year by the district, in conjunction with SNN, to communicate with parents via email only. The district is expanding the use of School Messenger to include text messages and automated phone calls for emergency communications. The district will also continue to send emergency messages via email and most routine communication from the district and from the schools will be emailed. The phone calls and text message features will be used only for emergencies and for time-sensitive matters, including weather-related school closures or delays. 

On Monday, August 27, parents and/or guardians will be sent a text message invitation from School Messenger and can opt-in to receive emergency text messages from BCSD. 

This opt-in confirmation is required prior to staff members receiving important text messages from our schools. Be sure to reply if you want to be able to receive future emergency notifications from BCSD.

For those who have up-to-date information on file with the district that includes a current cell phone number, the message on Monday will look like this:

Bethlehem Central School District messages. Reply Y to confirm, HELP 4 info. Msg&data rates may apply. Msg freq varies. schoolmessenger.com/tm If you would like to receive text messages, please reply “Y” when you receive this message.

Text messages from our schools will be sent from School Messenger’s “short code” of 67587. Short codes are the industry standard, and the fastest, most reliable way deliver mass text notifications.

What if I don’t receive a text invitation from School Messenger on August 27? 

Don’t worry. This most likely means that your information in Aspen needs to be updated. To be sure your primary contact information is current (including cell phone), please review your information in the Aspen Parent Portal. If you need help locating your contact information in Aspen, click here for directions. Changes to your primary contact information should be emailed to District Registrar Melissa Haas at mhaas@bethlehemschools.org. The district will send out follow-up information on how to opt-in to School Messenger if you do not receive the August 27 text invitation.

How often will I receive text messages?

The district does not intend to use School Messenger frequently for text messages or phone calls. These are most likely to be used when a time-sensitive matter must be brought to the attention of district families. Most routine communication from the system will be sent via email. However, text messages will be sent via this system for snow days, school delays, early dismissals or in the event of an emergency or unforeseen event.

Will I be charged for the text messages that I receive from School Messenger?

School Messenger does not charge recipients for text messages that they receive or send to the short code. However, wireless providers may charge for individual text messages, depending on the plan associated with the wireless device. Please consult your carrier if you are uncertain.

What happens if I do not reply to the invitation message or do not reply right away?

You can respond to the invitation message anytime. If you do not reply, you won’t receive any future texts from our schools. If you no longer have the invitation, you can opt in at any point in the future by texting “Y” to 67587.

How do I know if my response to the invitation was successful?

After you text one of the keywords to the short code, the system will respond back with one of three messages: A registration confirmation; a message indicating that you have unsubscribed; or a help/unknown keyword response.

What does it mean if I text “Y” and receive an error message in response?

If you receive what appears to be an error message, it most likely means that short code text messaging is not enabled on your wireless subscription plan. You may wish to follow-up with your carrier for more information.

How do recipients opt-out of receiving text messages?

You can do this by not responding to the text message invitation. You can also text “STOP” to 67587 at any time or opt out at http://schoolmessenger.com/txtmsg.

How can I be sure I will receive information that pertains to my student’s school?

One of the features of School Messenger is that it provides greater opportunity for targeted messaging to families. Parent contact information is linked to a student’s profile in Aspen. School Messenger is synced to Aspen on a daily basis so there is no need for parents to update any information beyond the contact information that is stored on the Aspen Parent Portal. For example: In 2018-19, a parent with a child in Grade 8 will receive all BCMS news and any news for Grade 8 families only. If the parent also has a child at Eagle in grade 5, all Eagle news and any grade-level announcements will be received. If the same students continue to be enrolled in the district in 2019-20, that family would receive news from both BCMS and BCHS, without having to update any information. Because SNN has allowed recipients to opt-in to receive other news (athletics, district-level news, etc.) the district will be adding that option within School Messenger in fall 2018 so that no one misses out on news that may be of interest. 

Will staff be receiving text messages from School Messenger?

Yes. Staff members were notified about the new text messaging feature in the spring of the 2017-18 school year and many staff have opted in via text message in the same way parents will on August 27. Staff who have not opted in to receive text messages can do so on Opening Day of the 2018-19 school year.

Will I still receive email messages from BCSD SNN?

Beginning January 1, 2019, SNN will no longer be used by the district. Until that time, some messages sent using School Messenger will also be delivered to SNN recipients and you may receive duplicate emails. After January 1, you will no longer receive SNN messages. School Messenger will be expanded to provide an opportunity for community members who no longer have children enrolled in school to still receive district and community news, in the same way they have through SNN.

What if I have questions that are not answered above?

There will be follow-up communications the week of August 27 to ensure all families who want to receive messages through School Messenger are able to. Please watch for those emails. Also, you can email any specific questions to the Communications Department at bcsdcommunications@bethlehemschools.org and we will do our best to help you navigate this new tool.