New platform streamlines communication for the Southern Hancock school district

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The Southern Hancock school district is going to start using a new communication tool called ParentSquare, a unified hub for everyone to communicate. District officials and the community currently communicate via numerous social media platforms, alert texts, emails and phone calls along with a program called School Messenger. ParentSquare will be the district’s only primary messaging tool beginning in 2022-23 school year.

TOM RUSSO | DAILY REPORTER

NEW PALESTINE — Officials with the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County say they will soon have a better way of communicating with parents. District officials plan to roll out a new a new communication tool called ParentSquare — a unified information hub for everyone that should be ready in time for the 2022-23 school year.

Superintendent Lisa Lantrip said they are excited to add this type of tool to the district.

“This will be one of many ways we engage our parents in the education process,” Lantrip said. “ParentSquare will help our parents access important information related to their student’s classroom, school and the corporation as a whole.”

Based in California, the company boasts on its website that ParentSquare is relied upon by millions of educators and families in 44 states for unified, effective school communications. That includes the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation, which launched ParentSquare in July 2020 for staff and parents.

“It has been a tremendous assistance for school-home communication as it reaches our staff and parents in the methods that work best for them: email, text, push notification, etc.,” Maria Bond, community relations director for Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation said.

She noted parents can keep track of news, activities and events from all of their schools in one place.

“The engagement features have become a very valuable piece of our communication toolkit,” Bond said.

Some of the beneficial features include forms and permission slips, the ParentSquare app, syncing with Skyward, message metrics, one-to-one and group messaging, real-time translation features and urgent messaging.

Southern Hancock officials and their community currently communicate via numerous social media platforms along with a program called school messenger.

They also use text alerts and emails. ParentSquare will be the district’s primary messaging tool next year, said Wes Anderson, director of schoool and community relations.

Teachers, principals and administrators who currently use email, text, phone calls and school news letters via a program called school messenger will soon use ParentSquare to streamline all of those messages into one destination for the parent.

“It will do all the things we’re used to, but it will make communication a lot more user-friendly on the parent end,” Anderson said.

The program, which costs an estimated $3,000 a year per 600 students according to the company website, will be on demand for parents through an app they can add to their smartphone or other devices.

“It kind of almost feels like and will work the way a Facebook app works, where things are organized in a timeline so people can see what they’re getting for each of their kids and who it came from and when,” Anderson said.

Whether a message comes from the district, a principal, a teacher or a coach, all the messages will be in one place, so parents won’t have to go to different emails, texts, or social media apps to find out what is going on with their child or the district.

“It’s going to consolidate all the other services that we use,” Anderson said.

The company claims on its website, ParentSquare.com, that their program is “the premier unified school-home engagement platform for K-12.”

A school district in Northern California with over 14,000 students enrolled in its 30 schools started using ParentSquare to make information more accessible and digestible for families, especially during the pandemic, said Patrick Gannon, the district’s communications and community engagement coordinator.

Gannon noted the district recently adopted ParentSquare’s new Community Groups feature to contact alumni of its oldest high school about that school’s centennial.

“Some alumni have email, some just have a phone number, but with Community Groups, we now can reach everyone with relevant information,” Gannon said.

While Southern Hancock officials may not opt to use certain parts of the program, they plan to utilize everything they need to in order to make information easier to attain.

The program is designed to provide parent engagement tools that work from the district office to the individual classroom. ParentSquare’s technology platform features extensive integration with student information and other critical administrative systems, translation to more than 100 languages, and app, email, text, voice and web portal access for equitable communication.

Southern Hancock officials say they were looking for something that would help them get messaging more organized and found the ParentSquare program meets their needs.

Anderson plans to start testing the program as soon as possible and get it to parents quickly so they can become familiar with it before the 2022-23 school year starts in August.

“What we like about this program is, with all the messaging they get, now our parents will only need one program to be able to get everything,” Anderson said.

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