Waterbury Public Schools using new tech system to get critical school, COVID-19 info to students, parents

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Waterbury Public Schools is employing a new technology system to keep parents and students up-to-date with important school and coronavirus information.

“There’s an app for that.”

The popular catchphrase may help Waterbury Public Schools solve a communications problem with parents in this unusual school year.

During a recent Board of Ed meeting, Superintendent Dr. Verna Ruffin reported the district was having trouble contacting about 10 percent of the parents with kids in Waterbury Public Schools.

This concerned school leaders, especially during a pandemic when the district is busy trying to notify everyone about positive COVID-19 cases in its schools — like two that have forced Kennedy High School to shut down for in-person learning for most of the week.

RELATED: 2 students at Kennedy High School in Waterbury test positive for COVID; all classes moving online today and tomorrow

In an effort to solve the communication issue, the district has introduced new technology. It’s a new app called ParentSquare. Alderman George Noujaim, whose child attends Kennedy High School, says it has enabled the district to send out numerous texts the moment there’s a problem or an alert concerning one or more of the schools.

“You register your cell phone number and I’ve been getting daily texts,” said Noujaim, who’s also a member of the Board of Education. “Yesterday, I got four texts from my daughter’s high school here at Kennedy. I’ve gotten texts from other schools, as well, where all of my other children go to. So, I think they’re doing a phenomenal job getting all of the information out.”

The alerts are done in different languages: English, Spanish, and Albanian.

Sujata Wycoff, Director of Communications for Waterbury Public Schools, says switching over to the new system in March allowed the district to eliminate many of the communication issues they were having with their old system.

“This has really helped us hone in on that percentage of students that we could not contact,” Wycoff said. “I think when we were shut down in March and there was that rush to get in touch with students and distribute technology, we realized that some of our information was outdated for about 10 percent of our students, which was troubling.”

Wycoff says when ParentSquare was implemented, whatever records they kept in the old system automatically were synched into the new one. And Wycoff says something else happened. Staff workers started joining the effort to reach out to students to personally get their updated family contact info — like new cell phone numbers, addresses, etc. — and they helped to make sure the new info ended up in ParentSquare — a new, centralized location.

“We had boots on the ground, staff workers, teachers, principals, administrators trying to do everything they could to reach these students,” Wycoff said.

And she tells News 8 the effort is paying off. Remember that 10 percent?

“We’re probably down to five or six percent but that number is going down every single day,” Wycoff said.

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