That first impression is an opportunity to highlight the school’s best qualities and to show how welcoming the school community is to all stakeholders-parents, students, educators, and community members. Once this positive impression is made, the website can provide a wide variety of information, from posting an exam schedule to announcing an early dismissal because of inclement weather. The website can also effectively communicate the school’s vision and mission, the qualities, and the offerings to each of these stakeholders. In effect, the school website presents the personality of the school.
The features for a good website.
Most school websites have the following basic information:
- Calendars for school activities, school schedules, and bus schedules;
- Policy statements (ex: dress code, Internet use, attendance);
- School news on individual student achievements or group achievements;
- Information on the school learning activities including academic requirements, course descriptions, and prerequisite course work;
- Information on school extra-curricular activities (ex: clubs and athletic program);
- Links to teacher web pages and also staff and faculty contact information;
Some websites may also provide additional information including:
- Links to organizations or websites outside the school that support the school’s academic program.
- Links to software that contain student data (Google Classroom)
- Links to forms (ex: permission slips, course registration, attendance waivers, transcript requests, free and reduced lunch) that can reduce the costly reproduction of paper copies;
- Board of Education resources such as contact information for board members, minutes of meetings, agendas, and meeting schedules;
- Education policies, such as those policies on data privacy;
- Photos of students and faculty;
- A forum or discussion page for teachers, administrators, students, and parents to exchange information such as news and calendars of events;
- Links to school social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
Information placed on the school website will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Therefore, all the information on the school website must be timely and accurate. Dated material should be removed or archived.
Who Has Responsibility for the School Website?
There are a number of school website design businesses that can provide the basic platform and customize the site according to a school’s need. Design companies generally provide the initial training and support on maintaining the school website.
Another approach is to use the website as a part of the school curriculum where students are given the task of developing and maintaining portions of the website. This innovative approach benefits both the students who learn to work collaboratively in an authentic and on-going project as well as educators who can become more familiar with the technologies involved.
Whatever the process for maintaining the school website, the ultimate responsibility for all content must lie with one school administrator.
Navigating the School Website
Good navigation on a school website should include a navigation bar, clearly defined tabs, or labels that clearly differentiate the pages of the website. Parents, educators, students, and community members should be able to travel throughout the entire website regardless of the level of proficiency with websites.
Particular attention should be given to encouraging parents to use the school website. That encouragement might include training or demonstrations for parents during school open houses or parent-teacher meeting. Schools could even offer technology training for parents after school or on special evening activity nights.
Whether it is someone many miles away, or a parent living down the road, everyone is afforded the same opportunity to see the school’s website online. Administrators and faculty should see school website as the front door of the school, an opportunity to welcome all virtual visitors and make them feel comfortable in order to make that great first impression.
There are reasons to make the school website as attractive and professional as possible. While a private school may be looking to attract students through a website, both public and private school administrators may be seeking to attract high-quality staff who can drive achievement results. Businesses in the community may want to reference a school’s website in order to attract or expand economic interests. Taxpayers in the community may see a well-designed website as a sign that the school system is also well-designed.