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Swine Flu Outbreak Increases minutes. Users can record messages in
their own voices using a toll-free
phone number, or upload a text mes-
Schools’ Use of Speech sage that can be converted to an audio
file. They then select the recipients by
name, group, or geographic area and
In the early days of the swine flu (H1N1) epidemic, many U.S.
specify whether they want the mes-
school officials used voice broadcast and mass message delivery sages to be sent immediately or at a
technology to proactively reach parents with important updates later date and time.
For its part, Blackboard Connect cre-
and information. Between April 27 and May 4, roughly 1,300 ated sample scripts for clients to use as
school districts used Sherman Oaks, parents who wanted to know if schools a reference to make sure they were get-
Calif.-based Blackboard Connect to were closed, and most importantly, if ting all the necessary information out to
send 9.79 million messages to parents, their children would be safe. From my the public, according to Karl Engkvist,
staff, and residents with updates on office phone, we were able to record and the company’s executive vice president.
potential cases and precautionary send an assuring message, in English “Especially in the younger grades, it
measures to help control the spread of and Spanish, to parents, students, and is so important to hear assurances,
the virus. staff. The incoming calls quickly sub- and hearing them from someone in au-
Many other schools and districts sided, and we were able to focus on thority really helped alleviate a lot of
used the SchoolReach Instant Parent keeping our students safe.” the fears and anxiety that parents
Contact system from GroupCast to an- The West Oso Independent School were feeling,” Engkvist says.
nounce their closures and other swine District in Corpus Christi, Texas, was Activity among Blackboard Connect
flu-related information. one of SchoolReach’s customers that users was “really intense” during the
One of the first school districts to closed due to an H1N1 case. One Fri- first week of the outbreak, but it con-
use Blackboard Connect for that pur-