Before COVID-19, texting was an important part of CATCH Prep’s communication strategy. In the last year, it’s become critical.
CATCH Prep Charter High School is a publicly funded, urban charter school in Crenshaw, Los Angeles.
The school needed a more accessible communication method to reach its students and their families.
CATCH Prep was able to support its move to remote learning with SimpleTexting and keep its community updated.
For over 15 years, CATCH Prep has provided young Black and Latino people from low-income families in South-Central Los Angeles with opportunities in academics, the arts, and technology.
The motto of the school is simple: “Where anything is possible, and EVERYbody can become ANYbody.”
It’s an approach to education that has clearly worked with an impressive number of its students going on to earn Bachelor’s Degrees or higher from third-level institutions across the U.S.
We spoke with Chief Academic Officer, Joshua Arnold, to discuss how the school’s successfully incorporated texting into its communication strategy.
About a decade ago, a majority of schools moved to email. As Joshua points out it’s not a move that has made sense for everyone.
“Low-income families often don’t have access to computers and Wi-Fi at home. They’re not typically checking emails all the time.”
As smartphone ownership grew, it became clear to him that the best way to get in touch with families was through text messages.
That’s when he began his search for a text messaging service.
A big factor in the decision to go with SimpleTexting came down to our MMS messaging. (MMS allows you to send messages that include multimedia content.)
"The ability to include images in our text messages is really, really helpful because we can send infographics or little flyers. It’s nice to be able to use more than just words."
Like most schools that text, CATCH Prep sends out a variety of messages.
“Sometimes there are emergency messages that need to get sent. School-wide messages. Sometimes we also send messages by grade level.”
To make this work, the school has to collect phone numbers from as many people as possible.
Part of the strategy is to ask them to text in a keyword. (A keyword is a word, phrase, or other combination of numbers and letters that allows people to subscribe to your text messages.)
Joshua points out that the ability to engage with people and answer any questions they might have has been a pleasant surprise.
“For families to respond back is important as we often get valuable feedback about things we’re missing.”
As soon as the pandemic hit California, all schools in Los Angeles immediately closed.
CATCH Prep had never done remote learning. So to get up and running, the school needed to distribute Chromebook devices and free Wi-Fi hotspots to all of their students and families.
“I can’t tell you how long it would have taken to call every single student and family, then pick a day for distribution.”
Instead, Joshua sent out a simple text message.
The best part was that everybody texted back to confirm.
"We were able to distribute devices to continue learning immediately rather than waiting weeks and weeks and weeks to figure out how to distribute it all. So that was super helpful."
That’s not the only way texting has supported the local community since the pandemic started. As there are food scarcity issues in the area, the campus is also a distribution site for free food.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, families can pick up meals. Joshua and his team use SMS to communicate distribution dates and times, what’s on the menu, and other important information.
Joshua is grateful for the help the school has received during what’s been an incredibly challenging period.
“We’ve really appreciated the relationship. It’s always felt like a partnership. We feel like SimpleTexting values us and we really value that.”
When asked about the impact SimpleTexting’s had on Catch Prep, Joshua adds:
"SimpleTexting has helped us literally save lives during this global pandemic, and our students, parents, and families have been made so much more well-informed and safe as a result of the service."
This guide on text messaging for schools is a good starting place if you want to learn more about how SimpleTexting works. You can also access a 14-day free trial here if you’re ready to get started today.
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