Websites are core of district, parent and community interaction at FRSD
|Schoolwires® Websites are core of district, parent and community interaction at Flemington-Raritan Regional School District|
FRSD is satisfying its public’s increasing desire for online documentation of school activities and student successes.
“Schoolwires has allowed our teachers and administrators to develop websites that communicate the latest and most important information in a very professional style and manner,” said Gregory T. Nolan, Superintendent of Schools, Flemington-Raritan Regional School District. “Our websites are easy to use and widen the lines of communication between the school and home.”
Empowering parents and organizations
The community’s adoption of the Schoolwires’ Centricity2™ website as the hub of all school and district communications is far reaching. Teachers, students and the community at large understand that the website is the primary access point to the district. Likewise, it is the focal point for reaching out to the district community to encourage participation in different initiatives.
“Our community is accustomed to interacting virtually,” said Laura Bruhn, Executive Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent and District Webmaster at FRSD. “They prefer to go online and see photos and news from the schools. If something important happened, people expect to see it online.”
Some of the ways staff is using websites to engage the community include:
“People understand that if you want to share your information and increase participation, you need to put it on the Schoolwires’ website,” said Bruhn. “We love the fact that we can empower groups to build their own pages.”
Providing learning resources and classroom connections
Similarly, teachers understand that students and their parents are more likely to be engaged online than through paper communications. Over the last three years, teachers within the district have built and managed homework pages, online calendars, blogs, podcasts, photo galleries and other online tools that help enhance the connection between home and school. For example, the website built by a computer literacy teacher includes tools for practicing keyboard skills, recommendations for safe search engines, links to listen to online stories, and a blog documenting the activities of a pair of bald eagles – a personal interest of the teacher. The depth of content and resources on her Web page earned her a 2011 Tech4Learning Innovative Educators designation and an Instructor Magazine’s Blue Ribbon Web Site award.
“Schoolwires is so user friendly that many teachers need little if any training to build their websites,” explained Bruhn. “It is very easy for them to upload clip art, graphics, links, photo galleries and other resources for their students and parents. Our goal is to help our teachers by removing roadblocks; the Schoolwires’ technology helps us assist our teachers rather than frustrate them.”
Many teachers post upcoming assignments, resource links and calendars. Examples of strong use of the Centricity2 functionality include:
“Making this kind of information accessible helps parents talk to their kids. And it strengthens the connection between school and parents,” said Bruhn.
Creating a central, reliable information source
Counselors, teachers and others can easily bring in links to outside resources on their Web pages. This makes it easy for parents to access trusted and reliable information, and increases the value of the websites.
“It is easy for parents to maneuver through the site as they seek important and timely information,” said Nolan.
“We have families that are divorced and families where both parents are working,” added Bruhn. “Having one central site helps keep all family members on the same page. And when they do have a question, they are empowered to find the answer through the website. They don’t have to think about whom to call or what to do.”
Parents can access all the websites they need from the Schoolwires’ site including gradebooks and lunch programs where they can deposit money. A popular resource on the Schoolwires’ website is the Virtual Backpack. Information that used to be sent home in hard copy with students now gets posted in this area by each school. News about community events and fundraisers sponsored by area non-profits are posted in a separate virtual backpack.
“The community loves this program,” said Bruhn. “It provides immediate communication between the home and school without any reliance on students. It also promotes our ‘go green’ spirit and cuts down on paper and copying costs. And we are providing a service to the community by spreading the message for non-profit organizations.”
Providing instant updates
Parents and other authorized users can subscribe to receive an electronic alert through Centricity2, telling them when a new item has been posted in a backpack. The district also uses this functionality to alert subscribers about changes to calendars or school cancellations. Parents can choose from a variety of alerts depending on their interests and their child’s school.
“The electronic alerts are another tool to meet the need for immediate access. People know that if they get a message from us, it is reliable. We are sending specific information to target audiences, which is essential to effective communications,” said Bruhn.
Web analytics available through Centricity2 demonstrate the popularity of the communications. “We can see that the virtual backpack pages get a lot of traffic and we see a bump in visitors to the calendar when we send an alert about a change. The analytics are a great feature. They give us the ability to track trends and see which types of pages and sites are the most popular,” explained Bruhn.
Paving the path to student involvement
Whether they are looking for news of student awards, event information or a homework resource, parents and students know that the Schoolwires’ website will provide them with the resources they need.
“There is increasing demand from families, staff and the community for instant and reliable communications,” said Bruhn. “Most parents want to be involved in their child’s education and school, and the Web page is the easiest way for them to engage and get the information they need. Schoolwires has really enhanced our communications.”
About Flemington-Raritan School District
The Flemington-Raritan School District is a regional, K-8 district serving the children, parents and residents of Flemington Borough and Raritan Township, an area encompassing 38 square miles. Operating four K-4 elementary schools, a 5-6 intermediate school and a 7-8 middle school, the district houses 3,600 students and employs more than 500 staff members. The curriculum includes pre-school handicapped and gifted programs. Upon completing eighth grade, students attend Hunterdon Central Regional High School. and employs more than 500 staff members. The curriculum includes pre-school handicapped and gifted programs. Upon completing eighth grade, students attend Hunterdon Central Regional High School.
Want to read this article later?
Contact us to learn more about the many ways Schoolwires is transforming the education experience.