Parents, students look to social media for school closings

CINCINNATI - Students didn't have to wait for the scroll of closings to show up on TV to get word of Wednesday's cancellations; instead many looked to social media, a platform school officials say gets to audiences quickly on snow days.

"By and far students and parents have come to rely on the Twitterfeed from Lakota East to be kind of the most up to date information on snow days," said Lakota East Principal Suzanna Davis.

Davis got word from the Lakota Local School District about the snow day and posted it to Twitter, prompting students, teachers and parents to retweet and funnel the information to fellow followers.

"We are still using some of those more traditional methods just for folks that maybe not using social medial," Davis said. "But we have found it's a very quick way to communicate without students as well as our parents."

Communication during emergencies is key at the University of Cincinnati, and although a snow day isn't like an active shooter situation, U.C.'s spokesman Greg Hand said these situations help test the school's emergency communications.

The university uses a multi-platform approach that combines online, Twitter, Facebook, email and fire alarm alerts to let students know when an emergency situation arises.

"It's the same system that we would use if there was a serious security or safety issue on campus," Hand explained. "So we push all of the same buttons during snow, inclement weather situation as we would during an actual situation."

Posting weather alerts on social media platforms is only the beginning though, and school systems like Sycamore Community Schools are interacting with parents and students who are responding to social messages.
"We meet them where they are rather than making them come to us," said Erika Daggett, Sycamore's chief information officer. "We found out a lot of students, as well as media and business groups are leading more toward Twitter."

Daggett is spending her snow day letting followers know what school events are canceled and sharing submitted snow photos.

Still students tend to be shy when it comes to tweeting to their schools, said Jenny Johnson, communications and public relations specialist with Mother of Mercy High School.

"I sent out a tweet, put some mentions on Facebook and emailed our faculty and staff to say we want to know how you're spending your snow day, whether it's studying, sleeping or playing in the snow," she said.  "The kids always seem hesitant to want to respond. They like to retweet stuff."

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