School Web site in for change

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London City Schools is looking to upgrade its online presence and do so with in-house resources.

At the March 17 London Board of Education meeting, Matt Alice, a Web design teacher at the high school, shared his ideas for changes to the site, www.london.k12.oh.us.

Regarding content, Alice suggests the site include weather information related to school delays and closings. The information would drive people to the site, he said, where they might then explore other portions of the site.

Online district news could continue to cover sports and building highlights, as well as alumni information. Contact information for staff members would be a good addition, Alice added, as would an easier way for teachers to create Web pages for their individual classrooms.

Alice noted that as a class assignment, students in his Web Design II class are creating templates for teacher Web pages and collecting and inputting information from the teachers.

The overall structure of the site as it stands now is not flexible enough to easily allow frequent addition and deletion of content, Alice said. He said he would need extensive training to understand how it works and recommends that the district consider a new set-up.

As for design, Alice researched the sites of many other school districts. Those he liked best belong to Mona Shores Public Schools in Michigan (www.monashores.net) and New Albany Local Schools in Columbus (www.new-albany.k12.oh.us). He especially liked the drop-down menus across the top of the New Albany site because they eliminate duplications. Some sites unnecessarily place tools along the top and down the left side, he said. Both sites also are personalized with photos of students.

Alice, who is taking classes to further his training in Web site creation, said he will continue to research the possibilities and welcomes input from the board.

Board member Curtis Brooks had a long wish list for the district Web site. His concerns and ideas are as follows:

• Consistent structure throughout the site so that a user always can tell he or she is still on the London Schools Web site

• Standard font style, size and color

• Minimal use of animation so that the site looks clean and is not bandwidth-intensive

• No reliance on third-party Web sites for core content and a formal procedure for linking to third-party Web sites

• Management of content so that information is removed and updated often.

“If we can’t maintain it, we probably shouldn’t post it,” Brooks said. “When something goes up, it should have a shelf life.”

• Online payment system for parents to pay for lunches and school fees

• Staff directory that can be searched many different ways

• A printer-friendly format

• Calendar of events that can be searched by building or by district plus a way for users to subscribe for e-mail reminders of certain events

• Password protected access for parents to check on their children’s progress

• Online template to make filling out forms easier for parents to do

• Consistent structure for teacher and classroom pages

• Frequently Asked Questions section

• Information about non-academic areas of the district, such as transportation (bus schedules) and human resources (jobs).

Board member Eric Schooley added that the emphasis should be on content first and design second as the new Web site is developed. He recommended that a committee be formed to decide on content.

Just as Brooks had stated, Schooley also expressed concern about who would manage the content so that it doesn’t become stale. He said it could easily be a full-time job, but the board has no plans to hire a full-time person to do it. He suggested a delegation system within the existing staff.

Alice said Schooley’s concerns could be resolved if the district puts in place a clear procedure for content submission or uses software known as a Content Management System.

Board member Vici Geer asked when a new Web site could be up and running. Alice said that once he completes his training, he could have a site comparable to that of New Albany Local Schools online by December of this year.

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