Alabama DOE Tasked with Taking on School Emergency Notifications

Category - Education
by Lisa Eifert on July 10th, 2017

Alabama recently made the news with the signing of House Bill 89 by Governor Kay Ivey. The legislation’s gist? Mandating that the Alabama Department of Education (DOE) take on a bigger role in how and when information is conveyed to stakeholders. Specifically, the DOE will be responsible for developing an electronic notification system aimed at enhancing the sharing of emergency information. Here’s a closer look at the bill, along with why it’s generating so much positive buzz.

Introducing House Bill 89

Sponsored by Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton), the main body of the bill instructs,
“The Department of Education shall implement an electronic notification system designed to allow local schools and local school systems to input specific information relating to school delays, early releases, shelter-in-place information, as well as other emergency-related information to be compiled in one central electronic repository that is accessible by the department and the Governor…. It is the intent of the Legislature that all local schools and local school systems use the electronic notification system implemented by the department as a means of relaying information as set forth.”

Said Gov. Ivey in a prepared statement, “As a former school teacher, I know the importance of keeping everyone informed of what is going on in our schools. This notification system is a much-needed source of information to clarify the sometimes murky communications in times of emergency.”

Facilitating Better Decision-Making

According to Alabama Department of Education Public Information Manager Malissa Valdes-Hubert as reported by The Alexander City Outlook, the bill was not only well-received by the DOE, but is aligned with a project already underway in which superintendents will be able to submit online forms detailing closings and delays. The submissions will then be uploaded to a master list viewable by other superintendents across the state.

Continued Valdes-Hubert, “This is not a public system. The information submitted stays between schools, school systems, the state Department of Education and the governor. It helps the Department of Education, the governor’s office, and the EMA be better informed about school closures, and it also helps make better decisions about school policy in the future.”

Given escalations across everything from extreme weather events to active shooter situations, it’s hardly surprising that the bill received bipartisan support and unanimously passed the state Senate. Nor is it a stretch to expect other states to follow suit. Perhaps Alexander City Superintendent Dr. Darrell Cooper summed it up best in telling The Outlook, “I can see it being beneficial in the long run,” he said. “More communication never hurts.”

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