Stillwater district unveils new technology services

Text alerts, lunch menu app keep families more informed

Stillwater Area Public Schools District 834 will become more mobile-friendly this fall with the addition of two new services for parents and students. The district will introduce a new text alert service and lunch menu application for mobile devices that will keep families in the loop with what’s going on during the school day.

“Anything we can do to improve or increase our services for our students and parents is a good thing,” Superintendent Corey Lunn said. “When we’re downsizing ... it’s good to have a service that allows parents to not depend on staff as much.”

Communications director Carissa Keister added that families are spending more time on the go and the new services makes it easier for parents to stay connected.

“It’s a growing trend that people are online more and more often.

These services are making it easier for families and students to be more informed,” she said.

Text alert system

A new Short Message Service alert system will send texts to parents, notifying them of school emergencies or closures. The district already utilizes an automated mass voicemail and email system through a company called SchoolMessenger, and the text notifications will come from the same system.

Database system coordinator Dick Klein says that although the district has been using SchoolMessenger for several years, they have not yet utilized its text alert function.

“I’ve been encouraging (the district) to use the text function for some time now,” Klein said. “We finally decided to start using it this fall.”

Texts are particularly helpful for those who are constantly on the move. A quick message sent to parents can alert them of a school lockdown, snow day or special event in just seconds.

District officials are aware that some cell phone service providers charge users for sending and receiving text messages, which is why they are asking users to opt into the service, rather than just automatically subscribing cell phone numbers.

The service will send messages to the designated “cell phone” number listed on the district’s Skyward Family Access database.

Parents should be sure to update their information on the database prior to Sept. 16, the system’s official start date.

Those who do not opt in now will receive a text invitation to do so on Sept. 16. Klein is confident the texts will be a well-used service.

“So many people text now,” Klein explained. “I have a hunch most people will choose to opt in.”

Lunch menu application

Thanks to a new mobile application, school breakfast and lunch menus are now available at the touch of a button. The district’s new app, aptly named School Lunch by Nutrislice, is available for both iPhone users in the Apple App Store and for Android smartphone users in Google Play.

“Students and parents can use the app to get the daily menus, look at nutritional information like calories and carbohydrate counts, get descriptions of food items, and common allergens will show up as well,” supervisor of Food Services Linda Nordgren said.

Pictures of each menu item are also included in the application. Users can filter out menu items containing common allergens like dairy, wheat and shellfish, among others, in order to better plan meal choices with their students.

“I saw this application at a trade show I attended last year and I thought, ‘This would be a great tool for our parents and students,’”

Nordgren explained. “We’re among the first schools in the nation to use it because it’s relatively new technology.”

The application is also available to non-mobile users on an interactive website at http://stillwater.nutrislice.com. The website includes a print function so menus can be printed and posted at home.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

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