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Post-Tribune

Storm Alert Works as Planned

October 4, 2010

VALPARAISO -- The Valparaiso Community School Corp.'s new SchoolMessenger system got its first true test Tuesday morning, when tornado sirens started blaring at 8:20 a.m., as many students were on the bus.

Superintendent Andrew Melin said the message system, which sent out automated phone and e-mail messages assuring parents and guardians their children were safe, worked as hoped. The system was tested a few weeks ago.

"A lot of people took the time (Tuesday) to e-mail to let us know they appreciate the call," he said.

Melin put together a phone message shortly after 9 a.m., telling parents the schools were taking precautions during the tornado warning and students were in safe places while the weather was monitored. An e-mail message went out as well.

In about five minutes, he can record a voice mail message and put together e-mail and text messages to be sent out over the system.

The school corporation has a text message system, Text Caster, and that is being converted to SchoolMessenger, so text messages did not go out Tuesday.

When the sirens went off, middle and high school students were already at school, but Melin said he didn't want to stop bus pickup and leave students at their stops, so decided to have bus drivers complete their routes and bring the children to school.

"This was a unique time and we did the best we could to get the kids as safe and as quickly as we could," he said.