AUBURN — Parents should get an early morning phone call the next time a storm closes city schools, courtesy of a new automatic dialing system.
Peter Robinson, director of technology for the Auburn School Department, said his staff tested the system Tuesday, making automatic calls to 4,200 phone numbers of parents, teachers and staff.
"It did that, calling all those numbers in about 25 minutes," Robinson said. "Think about that. It's much better than we could ever do with live people."
In case of a bad snowstorm, Robinson said he is usually notified of the school closing by 5:15 a.m.
"It takes me about three minutes to set the system up, and then it starts dialing," he said. It's designed to call all of the numbers in its database between 5:15 a.m. and 6 a.m. The department has the option of recording a message or of typing in a message which is read by a computer, he said.
The system reported 79 percent effectiveness during its test Tuesday, he said, reaching at least one number for each student, staff member or teacher. The system contacted 1,550 people in its first test and left 863 voice mail messages.
The system pulls numbers from the School Department records, Robinson said.
"At this point, we need to do a bit more work to make sure our records are entirely accurate," Robinson said. He urged any Auburn school parent who didn't receive a message Tuesday to contact the school and update their contact information.
"If they don't get the messages, they should continue to get school closing information from other sources — the city's website and the media," Robinson said. "As we move forward, we'll be creating a web-based way for parents to decide which phone gets they call. But we're still working on that."
Joe Julias, MIS manager for the Lewiston School Department, said Lewiston uses the same system to notify teachers and staff of school closings. They don't use it to notify parents, however.
They do use it to notify parents if their children are absent without an excuse and in case of emergencies.