The Midview school system in Grafton is turning to technology to beef up its response to emergencies.
Midview is one of just two school districts in Ohio about to roll out a new app that better connects those on the front lines of a crisis in the classroom to worried parents waiting for answers.
"We don't always look at it from the parents' side," said Assistant Principal Gretchen Lawn at Midview Middle School.
In a split second, a normal school day can come to a screeching halt as teachers and staff mobilize to save lives during an emergency. When parents catch wind of a crisis, they drop everything to check on their child, but the school doesn't necessarily have the time to answer every concerned parent individually.
"As soon as a police car is in front of our building, you get 30 to 40 calls within the next ten minutes of why are police there, is everything ok," said Lawn.
While the school tries to answer those calls, students are on their phones.
"Kids are texting their parents sometimes inaccurate information," said Willingham.
All the while, school administrators are scrambling to send out alerts on multiple platforms to keep parents in the know.
"From a timeliness stand-point, it's not all happening at the same time," said Willingham.
Willingham said a new app called Villageworks will eliminate any delay in information going out to parents, easing their fears and keeping them in the loop in real time. It also gives teachers a chance to share what's happening in their immediate location.
“It immediately populates a screen to administrators that says this many students are unaccounted for, this many students might be injured," said Lawn.
That information is then relayed to first responders who will also have the app.
"It will really speed up I think connection times of getting people here and keeping kids safe and keeping parents and the community informed," said Willingham.
In a crisis, when things can get chaotic, this new technology will also make reuniting children with their families an easier and safer process. Villageworks will have pictures of the people authorized to pick the students up, allowing teachers and staff to quickly identify that they are releasing the children to the right adults.
The developers of the app, who are parents themselves, are currently working with Midview schools to perfect the app before they roll it out in the fall.
"It's a great way to communicate with parents that hasn't been available in the past," said Lawn.
A 10-year grant is making Villageworks possible for the district.
"lt's not going to cost our district anything. It's only going to provide more safety. So, for us, the price was perfect," said Willingham.