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School smartphone program pushes news, emergency alerts for parents

Posted at 8:21 PM, Sep 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-02 20:21:22-04

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Albuquerque Public Schools has a first-of-its-kind plan to alert parents when something is wrong at their child’s school. From lockdowns, to evacuations, to snow days, parents will now be notified, in a new way, on their phones.

APS and the Albuquerque-based app developer “APPCityLife” call the new district app groundbreaking. The smartphone program will allow parents to tailor news and emergency alerts to their phones from only the schools that they care about.

If you ask any parent waiting for their kids at school, they want to know what’s going on with their kids, from weather alerts to emergencies.

“Get up and know there’s going to be a snow day,” said Kelly Campbell, who has a first grade student at Arroyo del Oso Elementary in Albuquerque.

While the weather hasn’t caused problems yet, more recently, APS notified hundreds of parents after a manhunt forced three schools into lockdown near Taylor Ranch.

“It’s very nerve racking when you don’t know,” said Jeremiah Wessing, a parent of a third grade student at Arroyo del Oso Elementary.

Now, APS says it’s trying to do better and they’re starting by hitting parents on their smartphones.

“Get the information they need from the school in real time on their mobile device on the go,” said Aaron Jaramillo, Web Editor for APS.

Jaramillo is talking about APS’ new smartphone app.

“It allows parents to be more involved with what they get from their school,” said Jaramillo.

The app links information from school websites district wide. Parents are able to view specific smartphone-formatted webpage for all of the more than 100 schools within APS.

Those pages include information like school lunch menus, events calendars and district news.

However, one of the things they’re most excited about are the alerts.

“Push notifications is huge,” said Jaramillo.

The district says parents will be able to subscribe to their kid’s specific schools in a “favorite schools” section and get pop up alerts from there when something unexpected happens.

“They’re able to see the information, call the school, see what’s going on, then go pick up their kid if they need to,” said Jaramillo.

“It is very groundbreaking, we haven’t seen another system yet,” said Lisa Abeyta. Abeyta is the founder and CEO of smartphone app developer APPCityLife which helped make the iPhone and Android program for APS at no cost.

“It’s something that I wanted as a parent as a child in school,” said Abeyta.

Abeyta says APS is one of the first public school districts in the U.S. to have an app that’s capable of sending specific smartphone alerts to parents for only the schools they want to hear from.

Parents say it’s a welcome addition.

“Makes it more convenient,” said Jeremiah Wessing.

“Makes you very aware of what’s going on, you’re not guessing,” said Kelly Campbell.

Since the app is free to download, APS and APPCityLife are paying for it through sponsorships and advertisement revenue.

Once they cover development costs, APPCityLife says it will share the ad revenue. Half of that will go to the APS Foundation which will use it for various family and student financial support programs.

APPCityLife says so far about 1,100 people have downloaded the APS app. Eventually, they’re expecting a user base of about 300,000 people will use it regularly.