DPS gets new messaging software after emergency and snowstorm communication delays

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DENVER -- Denver Public Schools is utilizing new communication software after the district’s previous messaging system proved it could not consistently deliver timely messages to all staff and parents during emergencies and school closures.

“We knew that wasn’t acceptable and so we moved to a new system,” said Mark Ferrandino, the deputy superintendent of operations for DPS.

Ferrandino said the district experienced a “several-hour” delay in communication last school year when schools closed in April during a federal investigation into a possible threat related to the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

The district is now transitioning from Infinite Campus Messenger to a tool called SchoolMessenger.

“No one system can save everything, but it will allow us to communicate more quickly to parents and to staff,” said Ferrandino. The old system could not send simultaneous messages to tens of thousands of people.

“Now we can use one system that will get (messages to both parents and staff), and it meets the 911 standards,” he said, explaining how the software is certified to deliver messages within minutes. “Our goal is to be able to get (messages) to staff and to community within five minutes of knowing of an incident, and this will allow us to be able to do that.”

The FOX31 Problem Solvers discovered multiple people also sent complaint emails to the district after an October snowstorm caused a delay in communication about an early school closure.

“We received (a message about the closure) half an hour AFTER parents were notified of this change,” one employee wrote. “It is extremely disrespectful and unnerving for employees to know less than parents. We cannot properly serve our school families when we know less than they do.”

Another employee reported that she received the message about the early school closure several hours after schools had closed.

“We are always looking at ways we can do better,” said Ferrandino.

The district also received multiple emails complaining about the district’s delayed decision to shut down school early during the October storm.

“It’s just not safe. I have 4 students in my classroom. Please send us home,” wrote one employee.

Another person wrote, “I find it absolutely absurd that DPS has school today.”

Dieter Sliter, whose 11-year-old-daughter attends a DPS campus, wrote, “Not sure what you were thinking but I suggest you fix it before you consciously put the safety of DPS children and staff in danger.”

Ferrandino said he hopes parents and staff can understand how unpredictable weather can be.

“We are always looking at how do we improve the information we are gathering to make determinations on whether to delay as well as whether to cancel schools and then making sure we’re getting that information out as quickly to families (and) to staff as quickly as possible,” he said.

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