Alert Solutions Blog

School Lunch Debt: Can Your Students Afford Lunch?

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 @ 11:04 AM

Did you know 100,000 schools and education institutions across the country provide lunch to 30 million students each day? That’s a lot of cafeteria school lunches! According to the National School Lunch Program, of those 30 million students the program estimates as many as 20 million students receive their lunch for free, 2 million pay a reduced price of 40 cents, and 8 million pay the full price. These incredible statistics are shocking to those who don’t often think about school lunch debt.

Some K-12 school districts are reimbursed this school lunch debt by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which pays schools for lunch expenditures based on the number of students paying full price, reduced price, or are receiving the meal for free. This only occurs if the schools are part of the federal school lunch program.

School Lunch

Students who are not enrolled in a federally subsidized meal plan at their school typically have accounts in which they put money for school breakfasts and lunches. As with any account, once the money is gone the bills will accumulate. This is where school lunch debt begins. The New Food Academy tells us, “…that (school lunch) debt accrual puts an increasing burden on schools that bear it, sometimes to the tune of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single district. In late December, The Washington Post reported that K-12 students in the D.C. area owe a collective $500,000 in unpaid lunch debt for the first semester of the current academic year alone.”

School lunch costs vary by the school district and state, but according to New Food Academy, on average a single meal costs students $2.48 at the elementary school level and $2.74 at the high school level. Although this price doesn’t sound like a lot, it adds up for families providing for multiple children. Lunches can be expensive and lead to school lunch debt.

Frances Frost, a mother in Maryland, spoke openly to the Atlantic and talked about the various permission slips, picture day fliers, and field trip notices she receives on a daily basis. She had unfortunately missed the reminder on refilling her daughter’s school lunch account. She says “…the lunch server graciously let Natalie keep her selected hot lunch with a reminder to bring money for her meal account.” This isn’t always the norm.  There have been discussions on how school lunch shaming is happening in some schools and districts, which is when the cafeteria workers refuse a student lunch as they do not have any money in their account.

This “shaming” sometimes subjects children to the embarrassment of returning their lunch due to insufficient funds.  According to The Atlantic, “Last year in Bedford, Kentucky, parents complained and accused the local elementary school of “bullying” after a child’s lunch was confiscated and thrown away in front of her friends for running a negative balance. Dominic Gant, a high-schooler in Dowagiac, Michigan, was left embarrassed and hungry when his lunch was taken and trashed for owing $4.95. A 12-year-old in Dickinson, Texas had his school breakfast dumped over a 30 cent debt…” The stories continue. Although school lunch debts can seriously add up and create a financial burden for school districts, the shaming and bullying of children who owe money should not occur.

Alert Solutions may have a fix for this problem. Our school notification system, SwiftK12, allows administrators to set up automated alerts to go home to parents, including low lunch balance alerts. The  low lunch balance alert feature can automatically send parents an email, voice call or text message with the student’s name and the remaining dollar amount. Parents can also choose their preferred communication method to make sure they receive and read the notification.

With this feature, school administrators can:

  • Set up different fee alerts based on the balance level
  • Reduce manual staff labor, freeing up time
  • Easily recover unpaid balances, restoring a healthier cash flow for your K-12 school district
  • Notify and engage with parents more effectively
  • Cut down on paper costs

Free up staff from the tedious task of fee reminders and effectively recover unpaid balances with this helpful tool. Ready to learn more?

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school notifications, school announcement, educational technology, lunch balance, power announcement, powerschool, school programs, parent communication

4 Ways for K-12 Schools to Go Green for Earth Day

Posted by Philip Young on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 @ 08:04 AM

Earth Day is an international awareness event focused on preserving the environment’s natural resources from the negative impact of industrialization. There are many ways people can go green and take action, including attending marches, signing petitions, getting involved in local politics, cleaning up litter or waste in public spaces, or working in community gardens.

Earth Day

Across the United States, local K-12 schools have a unique opportunity to participate in Earth Day. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, April 22nd, and it’s the perfect time of year for administrators, teachers, students, and staff to look into new ways to go green.

Prioritizing sustainability in K-12 settings is a practice that will improve the community as a whole. Students will take these lessons home, and consider their individual impact on the global climate outside of the classroom. It’s also an opportunity to reassess school functions, both on an administrative level and in the classroom. Schools are likely to find new ways that technology fits into the picture while exploring eco-friendly options, and these solutions will improve operations for their district. By going digital, administrators can further reduce waste on school grounds while increasing access and convenience for students and parents.

Four Ways K-12 Schools can Go Green for Earth Day

  1. School-Wide Recycling Initiatives
    One of the most essential ways K-12 schools reduce waste is recycling. Luckily, there are several ways schools can make recycling a priority, starting with a student-led recycling club. Putting students in charge of collecting and emptying recycling bins is an excellent way to empower young people to be active participants in green initiatives. By making recycling a chance for students to hang out with friends and be social, the community will be more motivated to participate. Teachers, students, and custodians working together will reduce the number of recyclables wasted or put in landfills, but it is also another way to strengthen a sense of community.

    Schools also have an opportunity to find fun and unique ways to reduce recyclable waste. For example, art teachers can integrate old newspapers, magazines, and other discarded paper goods into classroom projects. Many crafts and classroom activities integrate recyclable materials, including hanging bottle gardens, creating bracelets or other accessories from newspapers, making a rainbow made from bottle caps, or using old cans and pots to create classroom organizers.
  1. Invest in Clean Energy
    K-12 schools across the United States are exploring ways to utilize green energy, such as installing solar panels on roofs and using electric buses. Schools make ideal candidates for solar power panels since they only require energy during the day when the sun is shining, and because they often have the roof size required for installation, as per the New York Times. The main barrier to access electric solar panels is financial, but costs are coming down. If a school does have funding for the installation, the panels can help the building save money on electric bills in the long run.

    Electric buses are an option school systems are  beginning to explore in the United States, though they’ve long been popular abroad. These buses provide a valuable alternative to diesel because they don’t expose children to soot or other harmful pollutants. Unfortunately, these vehicles are still twice or three times as expensive as traditional buses, but K-12 schools can potentially make up that money in low fuel and maintenance costs. These green solutions might not be viable in every community, but students, teachers, and administrators can advocate for clean energy funds on the local and state level.
  1. Start a Community Garden
    A community garden is a great idea for school systems looking to bgo green. Gardens help decrease air temperature, increase property value, and have the potential to provide fresh food to supplement school lunches, which reduces carbon emissions by cutting down on transport. There are also mental health benefits to gardening. Being in nature is therapeutic, and the sense of responsibility gardening provides can have a positive impact on mental health for students. Dedicating even a small amount of resources and class time to a school-wide garden space can help cultivate a healthier, greener community.
  1. Go Paperless
    Schools tend to use a lot of paper for bureaucratic and communication purposes. From student health files to detention or late slips to report cards, a lot of paper is used in the daily management of a school. Administrators can eliminate or significantly reduce the amount of paper waste by migrating systems into the digital sphere.

    Luckily, technology provides plenty of paperless methods for communication. A school notification system like SwiftK12 can send voice, e-mail, social media and SMS Text alerts that keep students informed of changes in scheduling or developing emergency situations in the community. Also, our Secure Document Delivery feature can help schools drastically cut paper use by sending report cards, student transcripts, and other timely notifications electronically.  

Not only will investing in digital communication make for an eco-friendly campus, it has also been shown to result in reduced truancy, better parent engagement and more transparency between staff and student families.

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: earth day, environment, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, go green

Questions to Ask your School Notification System Provider

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 @ 12:04 PM

Communicating with your school community is critical to ensuring that everyone is on the same page, feels included and is kept informed of important details that might affect them.

For some K-12 schools, using a school notification system is one way to efficiently communicate with students, teachers, staff and parents. If you’re evaluating your options, make sure to ask these questions to your school notification system provider.

Can they provide a secure and reliable network? 

Ask for details on data center redundancy. What types and how many data centers do they have? How do they ensure reliable message delivery? What level of encryption do they use to keep data secured?

How do they provide rapid message delivery?shutterstock_200713358

How many simultaneous voice calls and text messages can they support per second? How do they leverage routing capabilities to maximize speed? Is their system flexible enough to adjust voice call speed to local phone networks or uses email throttling to adapt to different throughput requirements of various ISPs?

What other K-12 schools have they worked with?

How long have they been working as a school notification system provider? How many K-12 schools and students do they support? Are there any K-12 schools in your area that you can speak with?

What features do they have?

Do they offer a mobile app that allows users to send email, voice, social media and SMS text alerts directly from their smart phone? Can the mobile app connect with your student information system, like PowerSchool, to allow users to instantly access up-to-date contact information? Can you automatically email parents important documents such as report cards, progress reports, transcripts, evaluations and student schedules?

By asking these questions to your school notification system provider, you can make sure you’re doing your due diligence in selecting a solution that works best for you and your K-12 school.

Alert Solutions' School Notification Systems

Topics: school notifications, school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education

Using Accurate Data to Enhance Your Parent-Teacher Communication Strategy

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Apr 09, 2019 @ 08:04 AM

Both parents and teachers are a child’s best role models as they grow up and develop into a young adult. For this reason, it’s very important your classroom encourages great positive parent-teacher communication. This communication should be ongoing throughout the school year, whether it’s a quick message home or a scheduled one-on-one meeting.

Keeping parents involved in their child’s education provides a community feeling which benefits both the student and the K-12 school. Positive parent-teacher communication promotes a level of trust between parents and teachers. As a parent you’re trusting your child is in good hands while they are at school, and as a teacher you’re trusting your students are going home to a positive environment. 

Multiple studies show us that engaged parents directly correlates with the following:

  • Students Perform Better in School
    Studies show students earn better grades and higher test scores. They also attend school more regularly and are more likely to pass their classes.
  • Students Have Improved Behavior & Positive Attitudes
    Students who have involved parents have reduced rates of substance abuse and delinquent acts compared to students whose parents are not involved.
  • Students Have Enhanced Social Skills
    Parent involvement often encourages students to interact with their peers. This leads to better social skills and academic outcomes.

Clean Data for Positive Parent-Teacher Communication

Clean Data for Parent-Teacher CommunicationTo help stay on top of your parent-teacher communication, you have a supportive ally: data. According to Education World, “student data helps keep both parents and the community in the loop about how schools are serving its students. Data helps people within the community compare how schools in the area perform compared against each other.” With clean data, you’re not only able to track how students are performing, but you will have up-to-date parent contact information to communicate that performance.

Using an effective school notification platform helps teachers keep parents engaged in their child’s education. Discover the 3 tools below that your school notification system needs to have:

  1. SIS Integration
    School administrators and teachers are always on the lookout for a school notification system that integrates with their current SIS, or student information system. Although the ease of having an integrated notification system sounds good enough to many, having an SIS integration also allows for greater school data accuracy. Having your school data linked with your school notification system ensures that any message an administrator or teacher sends goes to the correct and up-to-date contact information.

  2. Parent Portal
    A parent portal is an extremely useful tool in parent-teacher communication. When sending out important school alerts and notifications, it’s essential the message is being delivered to parents and staff using up-to-date contact information. Allowing parents to view and edit their contact information and review previously sent messages, documents, and files, is a great way to ensure positive parent-teacher communication. A parent portal also allows users to determine which phone number or email address should be contacted based on the type of message, and allows parents to set their preferred communication methods such as text, email, or phone calls.

  3. Multi-Language Translation Tool
    Working in a diverse school often means English is not everybody’s first language. According to the US Census Bureau, minorities will become the majority in 2023 of children under 18. It can be tricky to foster positive parent- teacher communication when navigating language barriers. Fortunately, with a multi-language translation tool teachers are able to reduce miscommunication by accommodating the language needs of parents, staff, and school community members. Knowing which parent or guardian speaks a different language is important data that will help foster a good relationship between teachers and parents.

The above tools help school administrators and teachers utilize their clean data to nurture positive parent-teacher communication.

Alert Solutions’ school notification platform, SwiftK12, has all three of these helpful tools. We understand communicating effectively with parents, staff, and students is essential in the daily and weekly operations within a K-12 school or classroom.  From unexpected school closures to automated attendance notifications, SwiftK12 enables teachers and administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes.

Improve parent-teacher communication with your school notification system!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

K-12 Schools Must Address Student Mental Health Concerns After 2 Parkland Survivor Suicides

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, Apr 04, 2019 @ 09:04 AM

There is nothing more upsetting than switching on the T.V. or radio to hear about a devastating school shooting. In 2018, thirty-five people in the U.S. died in school shootings, with many losing their lives in the February 14th shooting in Parkland Florida. That number doesn’t include the 79 people injured during these country-wide school shootings, and the many more that were deeply affected and are living with mental health issues. These student mental health concerns include PTSD and depression due to survivor’s guilt and the heartbreaking loss of friends and faculty.

Student Mental Health

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting occurred just over a year ago, yet the Parkland community continues to mourn over the effects of that tragedy. Within just one week, two Parkland survivors took their own lives.  Sydney Aiello, a 19-year-old graduate and a senior at the time of the mass shooting, died of an apparent suicide after struggling with PTSD and survivors guilt after living through the deaths of her classmates. The second survivor who committed suicide has been identified as 16-year-old sophomore, Calvin Desir. These suicides have shaken the community to the core, and have prompted people to take a closer look at the well-being of students and their mental health.

According to the Cut, “this is not the first time we’ve seen the toll of experiencing the trauma of a school shooting can take.” After the Columbine incident, a student and a mother of a student who was injured both took their own lives, and six students attempted suicide after a tragic school shooting in Ohio that left three students dead.

3 Student Mental Health Concerns to Look Out For

The Daily Beast explains, “Witnessing a school shooting is especially traumatic given the malleable shape of the brain of school children. Younger pupils are developing foundational skills that will allow them to learn more complex skills, while older students are balancing emotional and intellectual maturation through puberty.” With this being said, there are a few student mental health concerns educators, school administrators, and parents should be looking out for after a school shooting or school tragedy.

Multiple triggers such as smells, sounds, or even a memorial, could initiate a downward spiral for somebody who is suffering from depression, PTSD, or “survivor’s guilt”. Below each are defined:

Depression:
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is defined as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. “Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.” If you notice your students no longer care about their coursework, are absent often, and are uncharacteristically withdrawn, they may be experiencing depression or another mental health disorder.

PTSD:
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is common for those who have witnessed gun violence. It is defined as “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.” According to The Daily Beast, PTSD affects the area in the brain that processes stress and emotion, which is why many survivors report to feeling “numb” and are unable to respond in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy.

Survivor’s Guilt:
According to the Cut, survivor’s guilt by itself is not a diagnosis. It is a phenomenon that occurs involving the belief or question about one’s worth and one’s value. Students may ask “why did I survive when other people did not?” Or “why did I deserve to live and others did not?” Survivor’s guilt triggers these questions and students can blame themselves for not doing something more to save a friend or faculty member. These distortions are often linked to mood changes and depression, and are associated directly with PTSD.

Teachers and school administrators spend the most time with school-aged children who may be suffering from depression or PTSD after a detrimental tragedy.

Alert Solutions recommends keeping open communication with both students and their parents as often as possible, so teachers and administrators can effectively address a student’s mental health concern. Keeping a lookout for any signs or symptoms of depression, PTSD, or any other mental health issue is extremely important.Sharing any and every concern could end up saving a life.

Rave Mobile Safety recently acquired Alert Solutions, which allows us to share new school safety products such as the Rave Panic Button. The Rave Panic button allows users to alert 9-1-1 of an emergency and simultaneously send notifications to people on-site of the incident with just the push of a button. It has been proven to shorten response times, which could be a matter of life or death in school shooter situation.

Interested in learning more? Feel free to schedule a free consultation today.

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Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, school culture, school climate

Autism Awareness Month: How Can Your School Promote Acceptance?

Posted by Philip Young on Tue, Apr 02, 2019 @ 09:04 AM

Today is Autism Awareness Day, and the month of April is Autism Awareness Month!

Autism Awareness

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is defined as a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, and repetitive disorders.  There are many different subtypes of autism which are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Some people can live entirely independently with little support, and some require a significant amount of support in their day-to-day lives.

Autism Speaks shares autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the U.S. today, and the indicators of autism often appear by age 2 or 3. There can be developmental delays that appear sooner which leads to an earlier diagnosis. The sooner the diagnosis, the sooner early intervention can start. Research has made it clear that high-quality early intervention can improve learning, communication and social skills, as well as underlying brain development.

Texas Autism Society shares since the 1970’s the Autism Society have been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month (NAAM) to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism. The month of April is a great opportunity for K-12 schools and educators to teach students about autism and issues within the autism community. There are many ways for students to support their peers in school who may have autism, and raise both acceptance and awareness within the school community.

6 Ways to Promote Awareness During Autism Awareness Month

The Texas Autism Society has several great ideas that are fairly simple for K-12 schools to implement during April to raise awareness:

  • Share Autism Facts
    Consider sharing several autism facts on puzzle pieces around the school and mention these facts on the morning announcements for everybody to hear. You could hang the puzzle pieces on hallway walls or post them on a bulletin board for students and faculty to see.
  • Invite Guest Speakers
    Bring guest speakers into school to present to students. “Speakers can be people on the spectrum, family members of individuals with autism, or professionals in the field.” Your K-12 school could hold a special assembly for these presentations.
  • Autism Awareness Shirts
    Encourage your students and faculty to wear a certain color or specific autism awareness shirt one day of the week.
  • Showcase Autism Awareness Books
    Ask your school library to showcase books about Autism on display throughout the month of April. A few books mentioned by Texas Autism Society include: The Autism Acceptance Book by Ellen Sabin, Tobin Learns to Make Friends by Diane Murrell, Of Mice and Aliens by Kathy Hoopman, and Wishing on the Midnight Star by Nancy Ogaz. For a larger book suggestion list, click here.
  • Autism Movie
    Show a movie about autism during a lunch period or in the classroom. A few movies mentioned by Texas Autism Society include: Life Animated, Autism the Musical, Best Kept Secret, Family Next Door, Rain Man, Jack and the Red Hearts, Autism in Love, and The Story of Luke.
  • Create an Autism Ambassador Club
    Autism New Jersey has an Autism Ambassador Program that has a significant impact on increasing the acceptance of autism. “Ambassadors of all ages engage their communities by creating informational displays and presentations in their schools and workplaces, organizing successful fundraising events, and enlisting the support of legislators and state officials throughout April, National Autism Awareness Month.”

Spreading awareness doesn’t only need to happen in school. Get your students’ parents involved by sending home friendly reminders with your school notification system. SwiftK12 allows school administrators and teachers the ability to send messages home using parent-preferred communication methods such as text, emails, social media, and phone calls.

Make this month the biggest and best Autism Awareness Month your school has ever seen!

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Topics: student health, school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, school programs

Do You Have an Inclusive Classroom? Protect Your LGBTQ Students

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 @ 10:03 AM

Putting a focus on creating an inclusive learning environment for the young LGBTQ populations in K-12 schools is more important than ever. While there are more LGBTQ leaders represented in politics, media, and entertainment industries, schools can still be a very challenging place for LGBTQ kids. At a younger age children are questioning and discovering exactly who they are, which is why it’s essential to make sure you have an inclusive classroom and a safe place for kids to learn.

LGBTQ Inclusive Classroom - Rainbow Puzzle Pieces

Studies have shown LGBTQ students are much more likely to experience bullying and harassment in school, which leads to absenteeism and a higher risk of suicide. Mary Gilreath, a teacher in Colorado, goes out of her way to address gender identity in her classroom. Gilreath says “it’s a safety issue and a mental health issue for kids," pointing to the recent suicide of a 9-year-old Denver boy who was bullied after he came out to his classmates.

A 2013 study reports more than 74% of LGBTQ students were verbally harassed, and 36% were physically harassed due to their sexual orientation. Truly shocking statistics. Bullying in any way is terrible, but bullying directed at young children who are discovering their gender identity can be extremely detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health. At Alert Solutions, we do not tolerate bullying or cyberbullying in any way. Our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform was designed to help drastically reduce bullying incidents in K-12 schools, while maintaining student anonymity.

Before working on an inclusive classroom, teachers and school administrators need to understand gender identity terms. Without this knowledge teachers will struggle to fully grasp the range of identities within these communities, which automatically puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to supporting their students as allies. Accredited Online Schools put together a helpful list of the most common terms that relate to LGBTQ groups. They include:

  • Ally
    An ally is somebody who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ, but supports any and all individuals who do. They also advocate on their behalf.
  • Asexual
    Asexual individuals are not sexually attracted to either sex.
  • Bisexual
    Bisexual individuals are attracted to both sexes, either in physical or emotional ways, or both.
  • Cisgender
    A cisgender individual is somebody who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Closeted
    An individual who has not yet revealed their gender identity or sexual orientation publicly.
  • Coming Out/Disclosure
    When an LGBTQ individual discloses their sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, and community.
  • Gay/Lesbian
    Individuals who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.
  • Gender-Expansive
    Gender-expansive individuals believe there is a wider spectrum of gender identities than just male and female.
  • Gender Expression
    How one expresses gender identity using outward appearances, behaviors or other means.
  • Gender Identity
    Gender identity is how somebody sees themselves, not by the sex assigned at birth.
  • Gender-Neutral
    Gender neutral “refers to a number of different concepts, all of which revolve around neutrality. It could be used to discuss gender-neutral pronouns, bathrooms or identities.”
  • Questioning
    Individuals who are questioning are people who are exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Transgender
    Individuals who are transgender don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. They choose to express a different gender identity.
  • Transition
    Transition is “when an LGBT individual takes steps legally, medically, or socially to affirm their gender identity. This may include changing one’s name or seeking gender reassignment surgeries.”

Having knowledge of the above terms as a teacher or school administrator is the starting point of creating an inclusive classroom. Without knowing the several terms that relate to the LGBTQ community teachers may struggle to advocate for their students as allies, which would create an unsupportive learning environment where children spend most of their time.

5 Ways to Create an Inclusive Classroom

A Queer Endeavor is an organization that helps teachers navigate how to intervene when they see anti-LGBTQ bullying and how to be there for students who are feeling vulnerable. They put together a list of helpful tips on how to make your classroom an inclusive classroom:

  1. Let Students Identify Themselves
    On the first day of class have students fill out index cards with their preferred name and pronoun. Teachers should update their class list, and make sure to address their students by their preferred name and pronoun.

  2. Avoid Gendered Language
    Teachers should avoid addressing the class with gendered language such as “Ladies and Gentlemen” or “Boys and Girls”.

  3. Avoid Grouping by Gender
    Instead of grouping students by gender for activities and projects, group them by preferences such as ice cream flavors or favorite animals. You could also group by birthdays or birth months.

  4. All-Gender Bathrooms
    If your K-12 school has all-gender bathrooms, make sure your students know exactly where they are. Teachers should also be clear they are for everybody.

  5. Solidify Your Ally Status
    Make sure your students know you are their ally. For example; you could hang a rainbow flag, share your own pronouns with students, and start up or support LGBTQ groups or clubs.

Having an inclusive classroom will benefit everybody in the class! LGBTQ students will feel safer knowing they have an ally in a teacher or school administrator, and will likely have their classmates as their allies as well.

At Alert Solutions we understand the importance of having an inclusive classroom. We work hard to help K-12 schools and districts battle and tackle bullying incidents with our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform.  Want to learn more? Download our brochure today!

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Topics: bullying, cyberbullying, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, school climate

Earth Hour Day: 5 Ways to Encourage Students to Participate

Posted by Nina Caliri on Mon, Mar 25, 2019 @ 15:03 PM

Earth Hour Day is almost here! On Saturday, March 30th, millions of people, businesses, landmarks, and schools will set aside an hour of the day to switch off their lights and electronics. This event aims to spread awareness  about climate change, unite people around the world, and prompt individuals to take responsibility towards creating a sustainable future by turning off electronic devices and lights. Many participate, proving large populations are committed to protecting our planet.

Earth Hour Day History

shutterstock_1015851196

According to Time and Date, Earth Hour Day began in Sydney, Australia back in 2007. People wanted to stand up for climate change that year, and about 2.2 million businesses and homes turned their lights off for one full hour. After this first Earth Hour event, the effort gained traction and became a large global sustainability movement. 50 million people joined the next year across 35 countries and large monuments and global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the CN Tower, and the Golden Gate Bridge all stood in darkness for an hour.

Celebrating Earth Hour Day in K-12 Schools

Although Earth Hour Day is always on a weekend day, your K-12 school can celebrate and encourage teachers and students to participate on another day during the week, or throughout the entire week leading up to Earth Hour Day.  Ontario Eco Schools have great ideas to make celebrating Earth Hour Day fun and informative for an entire school. Consider trying these creative activities in your classroom:

  • Earth Hour Pledges
    During the hour of no electronics and lights, pass out slips to your students and have everybody write their own pledge to the environment. Afterwards, collect each pledge and display them for everybody to see in a common area of the school such as the cafeteria.

  • Earth Hour Awards
    Celebrate students who are actively engaged in positive environmental actions! Reward the students who (for example) turn off or unplug electronic devices at the end of the day. Try presenting awards at a classroom or school-wide level with an audience to promote why the student is receiving the award.

  • Flashlight Campfire
    As you cannot light a real flame within school walls, host a flashlight camp fire! Encourage students to sit around the flashlight campfire to share stories and sing campfire songs.

  • Earth Hour Art Show
    During the day inspire students to create meaningful and eco-friendly art projects. Once completed, display them within the classroom or out in the hallway for others to see. During Earth Hour, lead your students with flashlights to look at each piece of art from a different perspective.

  • Flashlight Yoga
    What better way to relax and reflect on the Earth Hour pledges mentioned above than flashlight yoga? Ontario Eco Schools suggests, “During, or leading up to, Earth Hour set up a yoga class and hand out flashlights to participants. Students can reflect on their Earth Hour pledges as they exercise, relax, and meditate.”

Promoting these fun activities will hopefully prompt your students to participate in Earth Hour Day at home with their family.

At Alert Solutions we’re very conscious of our environment, and the importance of spreading a green message to K-12 schools and districts across the country. We’ve blogged about several ways schools can ‘go green’ and lead in a movement toward a greener future. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, is a great way to send texts, emails, and calls home to parents to spread awareness of the Earth Hour Day activities teachers and administrators are planning out.  

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Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, go green

Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement in K-12 Schools

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 @ 13:03 PM

With the digital world continuing to expand year over year, educators are beginning to leverage several technologies to help increase parental involvement in K-12 schools. However, some are skeptical of these digital tools and the effectiveness they have in creating meaningful relationships between teachers and parents. With this being said, the typical in-person parent-teacher meetings are not as common since the evolution of digital technology.

Mom and Daughter on Phone - Parental Involvement

According to a 2016 report, “there’s been a steep drop in the number of parents who believe that more intimate forms of communication—face-to-face meetings with teachers, for example—are the most effective means to convey important information about students.” This study also tells us there is a growing acceptance of digital methods among both teachers and parents.

Parental involvement is a trending topic in the education field.  Studies show students with engaged parents are more likely to attend school, graduate on time, do better academically, and are less likely to drop out. Students are also less likely to get in trouble and have substance abuse problems.

Keeping parents in the loop of day-to-day activities is not always easy, but with the help of digital tools like social media, video calling, and automated notifications, teachers are saving time and keeping parents happy.

3 Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement

  1. Social Media
    Social media is a great way to stay connected with parents and promote parental involvement. Working parents may not be able to make it to parent engagement nights, but following classroom social media accounts such as Facebook pages or Twitter streams will keep them in the know. EdTech shares through using social media “they (parents) can stay more informed and offer more help and expertise during a time that’s more convenient for them.”

  2. Video Conferences & Calls
    If you can’t meet a parent in person, try video calling from the comfort of their home! Like mentioned previously, many parents are working and traveling which makes it difficult to meet with their child’s teachers. Video conferencing software such as Skype, Google Hangout, and FaceTime allow for great parental involvement digitally.

  3. Text Messaging & Automated Alerts
    Automated alerts and text message alerts are an easy way to boost parental involvement. This is becoming a preferred communication method for both teachers and parents alike. According to EdTech, “A lot of young parents become intimidated by formal conferences or can’t get time off work to attend. Many teachers have found that the ability to text parents has made communicating with them much easier.” A study was conducted in 2017 by Columbia University and parents were sent texts weekly about their children’s grades, absences, and missed assignments. This resulted in an “18 percent increase in student attendance and a 39 percent reduction in course failures.” The numbers speak for themselves!

Alert Solutions’ industry leading school notification platform, SwiftK12, allows teachers and administrators to send text messages home to parents with ease. SwiftK12’s automated attendance alerts also serve as a great tool to help save staff time and ultimately increase attendance rates.

Pearson Education explains that improving communication and parental involvement using digital tools won’t happen overnight. They recommend a few tips to help with nurturing parent engagement outlined below:

  • Involve Parents in Coursework
    Find ways to get parents involved in homework and other school projects. This can be done by sending helpful reminders home through their preferred communication methods.

  • Teach Parents About Digital Learning
    With the many skeptics out there, it’s important to talk with parents about your school’s approach to digital personalized learning. Pearson recommends sharing “how are students benefiting, how much time per day are they spending on screens, how does digital allow students to work at their own pace and meet competencies, what will homework look like and overall WHY digital.”

  • Remember: Not All Parents are Fluent English Speakers
    Break down those communication barriers! There are tools for parents and teachers make it easier to grow and sustain parental involvement and engagement across a language barrier. SwiftK12 is a helpful tool as it translates messages with ease.

  • Set Expectations
    Make sure parents know what to expect! Parents who have multiple children enrolled in one school may be overwhelmed if each teacher has a different way to communicate with them. Pearson provides the following example; “Imagine having 2 children each with 6 different teachers who have 6 different ways to access information. This can create deep frustration that is hard to overcome.”

At Alert Solutions, we understand the importance of parental involvement and keeping parents engaged - it has so many benefits for students. We’ve kept up with new technology trends with our school notification platform, SwiftK12. Reaching parents is easy to do with our quick alerts and automated lunch and attendance alerts. 

Ready to learn more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication

National Nutrition Month: 5 Ways Your Class Can Celebrate

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 @ 09:03 AM

March is National Nutrition Month! The Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics created this yearly campaign to encourage people to focus their attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. With students spending the majority of their time in schools, what better place to teach and promote healthy eating and exercise? Educating children of the significance of a proper diet is very important, as a child’s nutrition and lifestyle habits have a direct effect on every function of their body.  

Students on Field Trip - National Nutrition Month

Teaching kids the skills they need to make these proper food choices will help them develop lifelong healthy eating patterns. NCBI tells us “Healthy eating habits among adolescents and children are essential for healthy growth, cognitive development and other aspects of health and wellbeing.” These good habits have also been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

The School Nutrition Association shares the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 “required the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update federal nutrition standards for school meals”. These updated rules went into effect in July 2012 and require K-12 schools to offer students larger portions of fruits and veggies with every lunch, grains offered with meals must be whole-grain rich, meals must meet age-appropriate calorie minimums and maximums, sodium levels must meet certain limits, and meals cannot contain added trans-fat. Full guidelines can be found here.

Although the guidelines may seem to be rather strict, this doesn’t mean schools aren’t feeding their students delicious meals. Popular menu items such as pizza and macaroni are still served, but have had slight makeovers. For example, school pizza is now required to be prepared with whole grain crust, low-fat cheese, and reduced sodium sauce.

5 Ways K-12 Schools Can Celebrate National Nutrition Month

There are fun ways to teach your students about nutrition in the classroom. Have a good time and celebrate National Nutrition Month with these 5 ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  1. Take a Field Trip
    A field trip to a local farmers market or farm is a great way to get out of the classroom and celebrate National Nutrition Month. Introduce your students to healthy organic foods such as fruits and veggies grown locally! TeachHub also suggests a supermarket scavenger hunt as another field trip idea. “As you walk through the supermarket aisles, ask students to point out healthy foods that belong to each group on the food plate. Then, for a fun activity, divide students into groups and hand each group a list of healthy foods to search for.”

  2. Food Group Project
    For National Nutrition Month consider a group project in which you assign teams of students to different food groups. Have your students research their food groups in depth and present the nutrition facts to the class. This way they’re learning about their own food group, and also learning from their peers about the several other food groups.

  3. Taste Test
    What better way to get students to try new foods than a taste test! Cut up several different fruits and veggies into bite-size pieces and have your class try one of each. Be sure to check that there are no allergies in your class. After the taste test have the children participate in an open discussion amongst each other and then vote on their favorites with an explanation as to why!

  4. Food Product Boxes
    Another idea for National Nutrition Month is to have your classroom save empty boxes of food and bring them into class. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the class should “Spend some time reading labels and comparing information in the Nutrition Facts panels. Expand into a menu-planning opportunity, individually or in teams.”

  5. Tip of the Day
    Get parents involved! Consider sending home nutrition tips or trivia questions through your school notification platform and encourage parents to keep the nutrition discussion going outside of the classroom. You could even try sending home healthy recipes to try out. Getting parents and guardians involved will help solidify these healthy eating habits, which will only result in good outcomes as a child grows. For an extra incentive we suggest giving out prizes to the students and parents who participate!

At Alert Solutions we want all K-12 schools and districts to understand the importance of teaching children about nutrition and healthy eating habits, and why it is essential for healthy growth and cognitive development. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, is a great way to communicate with parents outside of the classroom to keep the nutrition conversation going. 

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, parent engagement

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