In winter 2018, Juan Lyle learned that his K-8 district in Chicago could receive a free version of a safety platform through Sourcewell, a government agency that provides cooperative-contract purchasing solutions nationally.
Sourcewell, formerly NJPA, offers free access to a two-way, real-time emergency communication app to district customers as part of the Safety for Students program in partnership with CrisisGo Inc.
Even though Lyle’s district, LaGrange School District 102, had already been using a mass notification system, part of his job as director of technology involves proactively investigating cost-effective solutions, especially those that would improve security.
“Since CrisisGo partnered with Sourcewell, I saw it as a beneficial opportunity,” says Lyle. “Without Sourcewell, I’m not sure we would have discovered the app.”
When Lyle decided to pursue this opportunity, his district began piloting the CrisisGo app at an elementary school, which recently used it during a lockdown drill.
Improving safety, communications
With the district’s other notification system, participants were receiving every reply to the original message, which hinders safety during emergencies. “Teachers have to send an email to say their room is safe during drills, but it’s not really effective because we are usually inundated with messages that we have to audit,” says Lyle.
“Since CrisisGo partnered with Sourcewell, I saw it as a beneficial opportunity. Without Sourcewell, I’m not sure we would have discovered the app.”
During a recent drill, school administrators saw how the CrisisGo app would streamline communications. “It was a complete relief because teachers simply had to click on the app to identify that they received the lockdown information, and were subsequently in compliance with the drill and safe,” says Lyle.
In addition to adopting CrisisGo, Lyle wants to purchase the full version of the app to unlock features that would improve communications between parents and administrators. The full version would also allow students to communicate separately with family members through the mobile app’s two-way messaging service.
Independent and reliable
Teachers can download the app on district-issued iPads and laptops, but to connect to the cellular network, they would need to install CrisisGo on their personal smartphones. Some teachers have expressed concern about this, but Lyle points out that having the app on their phones would allow them to communicate even if the internet went down, since the app can connect to the mobile network. Conversely, the current system relies on LaGrange’s Wi-Fi stability.
In addition, CrisisGo allows multiple employees to send out alerts; the current system only allows one school administrator to do so.
The elementary school has benefited from the app’s anonymous reporting feature to help combat bullying. Students use the app from their own mobile devices. “Our faculty value that students can tell an administrator that they are a victim of, or have witnessed, bullying anonymously,” says Lyle, adding, “It makes sense to streamline everything CrisisGo has to offer—not just because we would save financially, but since it works so seamlessly.”
Teaming with Sourcewell
CrisisGo provides its Safety for Students app for free to all members of the Sourcewell cooperative
Why did CrisisGo choose to partner with a cooperative purchasing solution provider for the Safety for Students program?
We’re a young company trying to broaden our reach. Many of us on the leadership team at CrisisGo have worked in the education space, and we realize that co-ops are extremely trusted and extremely valued by many of the districts they serve. There’s always a thousand things a district needs and a hundred things it can afford. Working with a co-op obviously increases a district’s purchasing power and its chances of getting more of what it needs. School safety has long been a priority for districts served by Sourcewell, and our partnership allows us to get Safety for Students to them quickly and at no cost.
Why did you choose Sourcewell?
CrisisGo has the highest concentration of clients throughout the Midwest. Because of that, we identified a number of states we considered to be strategic for us. Sourcewell serves its districts very well and had made school safety a priority, which obviously aligns with our mission. And we were able to form a very quick relationship with them.
What’s in it for CrisisGo to offer a free product?
We feel the mission of improving the safety and security of schools, classrooms and students is important enough to have an offer that costs nothing for schools to get started. We think every district in the country should have access to Safety for Students because it helps decrease response times when there is a situation, and it helps increase safety and create safer learning environments.
“Once a district signs on for this particular offer, they have access to it for as long as they want it. We won’t ever charge for that, and it’s all because of the symbiotic relationship we have with Sourcewell.”
Certainly, the free Safety for Students app isn’t all that we offer. We have a much more comprehensive solution that we charge for. As we build up the number of users for the free solution, we can ask those districts about other needs they have when it comes to crisis communication, planning and threat assessments. As we develop new features and functionality, we can see how those developments match with client needs, and then figure out how to broaden the implementation with those customers.
How are schools and districts benefiting from your partnership with Sourcewell?
Sourcewell helps us get exposure to their member districts without CrisisGo putting a lot of money and resources into marketing. We can then afford to extend a very robust program for free to all of Sourcewell’s members. Once a district
signs on for this particular offer, they have access to it for as long as they want it. We won’t ever charge for that, and it’s all because of the symbiotic relationship we have with Sourcewell. They help promote CrisisGo to member districts, which have access to a free safety program from CrisisGo.
For more information, please visit sourcewell.co/Safety