HALTON REGION - It's one thing to install a new auto-dial software system. But it's quite another to announce it to 25,000 households at 5 o'clock on a Saturday morning.
That's what happened to the Halton District School Board this weekend when it accidentally sent out a phone message to parents, advising them that school was cancelled.
To add to the embarrassment of school board officials, the message warning of "inclement weather" went out on a balmy morning.
And, of course, it was Saturday.
The trouble began last Monday when, eager to try out an updated version of the system, school board officials held a test run.
An employee created an automated message advising that bad weather had forced the closure of every school in the region for the day and fed it into the system. Once the test was done, the worker thought she had deleted the message. She was wrong.
At 5 a.m. Saturday, the system started calling 25,000 households. The employee who made the mistake was one of the people woken up. Realizing something had gone awry, she scrambled to fix the problem, but it was too late. By 5:30 a.m., every household had been called.
Sharon De Vellis was among them. An Oakville resident and mother of two children, she rises at 6 a.m. on weekdays and was looking forward to catching an extra hour or two of shut-eye Saturday morning.
It was not to be. At 5:07 a.m., she got the call.
"I did grapple for the phone, thinking that someone had died," she recalled.
"I thought that it must have snowed a lot last night. I turned to my husband and said, `Is it snowing?' He said, `It's Saturday!'"
De Vellis laughed off the rude awakening Saturday afternoon, as she tried to distract her kids with a movie while she stole off to take a nap and make up for lost sleep.
"We don't get much time to sleep in, period. So if we can get up to an extra hour, that's great," she said.
In Milton, Jodie and Peter Near had a similar experience. When first awoken by the call, Peter wondered if there was freezing rain outside until his wife pointed out that – freezing rain or not – it was the weekend.
The couple rolled over and went back to sleep.
Board officials promised to take steps so it doesn't happen again.