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School cancellation alert system applauded

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Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE - School district officials say the first run of a new system for notifying families about school cancellations was a success. 'I know I was excited when I got my call,' said District Public Relations Director Candace Ahlfinger. 'Everything we have heard has been real good.'

The computerized service placed a call to every family in the district last Tuesday when an ice storm forced cancellation of classes.

'This is the Family Alert Network for the Waxahachie ISD,' a slow, precise voice said after a slight delay when the call was answered. The delay between answering the call and hearing the tape does not seem to have caused any problems.

'We also put it on the local radio stations, the web site, the TV channel,' said Ahlfinger. 'Everything we could think of to let people know.'

Ahlfinger says WISD is the first district to use the new computerized calling system. 'We're the guinea pigs,' she said.

'It costs, really, just pennies per call.' Ahlfinger indicated the district had planned to do a test run with the new system but had not had time to do it before inclement weather cancelled classes last week.

The district was also able to set the system up to accommodate cancellations at individual schools, such as a power outage experienced at Waxahachie High School last year. 'We separated the schools out,' Ahlfinger said. 'So we can call just the high school students if we need to, or just the junior high.'

According to a press release supplied by WISD, families can include up to four additional telephone numbers on the system for a subscription fee of $7.95 per year.

The district has included only the home telephone number at this time.

Overall, officials and parents were pleased with the way the new system worked.

'We are glad to have a method to contact parents and staff effectively in case of an emergency,' said Dan Davis, assistant superintendent of business operations.

'The Family Alert Network proved its worth and was a great benefit to the district in this situation.'

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