Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

RSS feed of this blog

Did your phone ring at 5 a.m.?

How did you learn about today’s school delay? Stafford resident Patrick Stefl said he heard the news via a 5 a.m. robocall. Stefl, who is married to Heather Stefl, who challenged Patricia Healy for the Rockhill District School Board seat, sent this email to The Free Lance-Star and to Healy and School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Johnson:

Chairwoman Johnson and Ms. Healy as my Rockhill district representative for Stafford Schools I write you today to lodge a complaint against these robot calls for school closings.  This was a decision that was made by the county at 11:00 pm last evening and yet at 5:15 am this morning I and my family were startled awake by every phone in my house as well as all of my cell phones ringing to inform me of a 2 hour delay that I knew about before going to sleep.  While I understand the need for these calls in the state of an emergency such as a bomb scare, or terrorist attack  I do not understand why we have to have them for a late arrival when there are other means in place that have been working for years.  The TV and radio along with text notification parents have been receiving worked to notify myself and others for years on late and school closings. Why change something was not broken in the first place.
As we all have aging parents and relatives that are getting older I hope we all can agree to the distress that a phone call to our house, our cell phones and any other number that you may have can cause at 5:00 am in the morning.  My first thought at 5:00 am is not whether or not my son has school it is who has had an accident or has died……..  I respectfully ask that you use this system judicially and not for every announcement that the school has to send out.  I know Ms. Healy that you do not have a kid in the system I am not sure if you received the call but I am sure you got to sleep soundly while the rest of us where startled awake with thoughts of dread for our love ones.
Superintendent Randy Bridges sent this reply to Stefl:
We are in the difficult position of trying to meet the needs of thousands of parents who want to be notified of inclement weather decisions in a variety of ways, some as early as 4:30 am.  We are making every effort to meet the needs of many.
This was our first attempt at using the notification system for inclement weather.  Rather than using the normal distribution option of the system, we did the emergency option.  That feature calls all contact numbers listed for our students.  It can be useful as sometimes parents leave home in the morning before a 5:00 am decision is made about school delays and closures, and for other emergences as well.  However, we will not use the emergency option again for weather announcements.
So what do you think? Are early morning calls a help or an annoyance?


  • Irene Hollerback Egan

    The phone system should probably be used in cases of an emergency only (reminders for individual school events continue to be helpful and are made in the evening around dinner time).  The County’s notification system covers text AND email, TV/Radio announcements, Facebook and SCPS Website posts are probably sufficient means of notification.

  • Andie McConnell

    I can see the value to working parents. As a stay at home mom, I don’t need to know until we all wake up and it did cause some disturbance in our household though our call didn’t come until 552am.