School Bells – Questions to Ask Before Setting Up Your Schedule

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School Bell Schedules

One of the most sought-after features in a mass notification system for K12 schools is the ability to easily manage a bell schedule. Without a way to automate this process, it can be a time-consuming and tedious task. Ideally, with the right solution, schools and districts can set up a schedule for their entire school year without needing to make frequent updates or adjustments. However, many schools often dive right in and try to develop a plan on the fly. This can lead to unnecessary headaches down the line because certain considerations were not taken into account. You don’t want to think you’re almost done with your implementation, realize you’ve missed a step, and go back to square one. In this blog post, we’ll outline a handful of tips K12 schools can use to develop and implement an effective school bell schedule with help from a mass notification solution.

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Planning Ahead

It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best preparation for using a sophisticated software tool is a pen and paper (or virtual word document). If you start inside of the software, you may miss critical steps that impede an effective implementation. You need to ask and answer the right questions beforehand, so you can smoothly engage with the software and configure it in a way that will be most beneficial for your organization.

Here are four important questions to start with:

  • What will your bell sound like? This is a deceptively simple question, but an important one. You want a tone that will get people’s attention, but not be overly disruptive. With the ability to upload any audio file it may be overwhelming to find the tone that will work best in your environment. Some systems ship with pre-configured tones, but you may want to explore other options. You may also need more variety if you want to differentiate tones for different events. Your tardy bell may need to sound different than your class change bell or dismissal bell. If you have multiple schools in the same building, you may need to use different tones for your high school than the tones you use for your middle school. Making and recording these decisions ahead of time will make it easier to implement your schedule.
  • Who is your voice talent? In some cases, you may want a recorded voice announcement rather than a tone to help communicate important information. You may want the principal or another person of authority to record these messages, or you may just want someone on staff who is comfortable in front of a microphone and has a clear, authoritative voice. Again, this decision should be made depending on what you feel will work best in your school or district.
  • What are your exceptions? While you may know and understand what a typical week looks like in your school, there may be exceptions that alter daily or weekly schedules. Severe weather, parent-teacher conferences, exams, and holidays could all impact your schedule. Many of these events you can plan for in advance if you have access to the school calendar for that academic year. Note times when your schedule may be disrupted and account for how those disruptions will be handled.
  • Who is doing the scheduling? This can be an easy step to overlook, but you need to decide who will ultimately set up your schedule. This person should be aware of the answers to the previous questions and be comfortable managing the system should other adjustments need to be made. This is likely one feature that is part of a larger mass notification tool. If you already have someone managing it, it may be wise to limit the number of people managing the system and hand this work off to them.

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Creating a Ring List

While the previous steps will help anyone plan out their bell schedule, the next steps relate specifically to using the bell scheduling tool within InformaCast mass notification software. It will require you to create a ring list. This includes the tones you want to use and the times you want those tones to play. If you’re planning this on a district level, you need to think how this may be different at each school. This is also where you’ll want to consider the exceptions you previously identified and build separate ring lists for those exceptions. Two-hour delays, half-day schedules, and extended breaks should all be prebuilt, similar to a message template. Be explicit in naming these ring lists so they are easy to identify later.

Setting Up Your Schedule

Once you have created your ring lists, you can set up your bell schedule. For each day, you’ll want to select the ring list you want to use. If each day is exactly the same you can set the ring list for Monday through Friday. You can then add exceptions for particular days with the variable ring lists you created earlier. Set aside time to conduct this part of the project so you can complete the entire academic year at once. This will help you avoid duplicating efforts or losing your place, which could result in certain weeks not being assigned any ring lists. Prior to the start of your year or during an academic break, you may also want to set up exceptions to test your bells to ensure everything is working as intended.

Other Scheduled Messages

This kind of scheduling tool can be used in environments beyond K12 schools as well. Retail outlets can use it to announce store closings or special deals, healthcare facilities can use it to announce the end of visiting hours, and manufacturing facilities can automate shift change announcements. The flexibility of the scheduling tool means it can be customized for any number of use cases that might benefit an organization.

Discover more non-emergency use cases for mass notification

InformaCast Advanced and InformaCast Fusion from Singlewire Software offer powerful mass notification solutions along with the ability to schedule bells and other automated messages. For help with scheduling bells using InformaCast Advanced or InformaCast Fusion, visit the Singlewire Support Community for video tutorials and user guides.

 

 

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