Website transition in 2014

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Screenshot from District 49's development site, applying the design concept for D49.org. School sites are similar, varying visually in logo, colors and taglines.

School District 49’s website, located at D49.org, will receive an upgrade during the 2014 summer break. During the 2013-2014 school year, the district’s communications team invested considerable time reviewing community feedback, while exploring options with various web developers. During the second half of the year, the district entered an agreement with SchoolWires. Ahead of the 2014-2015 school year, District 49 will launch a new website experience that’s innovative, personalized and responsive. The SchoolWires Centricity2 platform offers impressive functionality and user-customizable content[1].

On April 4, a final design was approved, along with four breaking points for adapting to mobile devices. Coding of the new template is scheduled for completion in early June, while content is compiled and features are configured using a test site. The public launch is scheduled for July 1, and training will be offered to school-based webmasters prior to the 2014-2015 school year starting. After the migration is complete, each school will continue to manage its own site's content. School administrators must continue to notify the district communications department about newsworthy events. With the prior coordination, news stories will be written to follow Associated Press Stylebook guidelines, along with photojournalism and video reports, and then published on each mentioned school and zone pages by the district communications departments. On school sites, these stories will appear in a large, central content area on the homepage.

Custom Design for District 49's Community

The district's communications team considered numerous concerns with the district’s current website design and functionality, as explained by stakeholders in recent surveys. For example, survey responses have suggested information is often difficult to locate or share. There’s a lack of consistency between school websites, which is causing parent confusions. Staff accounts must be created manually, rather than automatically using internal directories and credentials. Parents are unable to login and manage their experience. All these issues, and many more, will be resolved. The new platform will enhance school-to-home communications, collaborative learning, mobile communications, community outreach programs, brand consistency, third party system integration, and much more.[2]

Mobile screenshot from District 49's development site
The new district and school websites are designed with the goal of upgrading to more Web 2.0 functionality. The use of primary and secondary colors is preserved on the district site, and each school will continue to sample from its official school colors. A drop down menu above logos will allow quick access to any school website and zone pages. A status icon was integrated into the website to indicate "Normal Schedule" (green), "Delayed Schedule" (yellow) and "Closed" (red) during inclement weather. Global icons include links to the Digital Backpack, Falcon Insider email newsletter, district news blog and career opportunities. Selecting the single-click sign on link, called "My Passkeys", will allow logged in visitors to automatically authenticate their sessions on district associated and approved websites, such as Schoology and InfiniteCampus. Below a large image slider with news headlines and leads, an accordion slider will contain links to content of current interest. On the district site, it'll segment for specific website visitor groups. There are numerous calendar options that make creating and sharing events much easier. Every parent will be encouraged to register and create what'll basically be their District 49 dashboard, where they'll manage their school associations, subscribe to pages and calendar updates, as well as opt in for text messages as a backup to email messaging. The website will continue to allow local businesses to purchase banner space via the district's CAN partnership.

Digital Backpack Upgrade

Each school will have its own Digital Backpack, an area where local businesses advertise non-curricular activities and parents download materials they're most interested in for their children. All flyers will be displayed on the district's Digital Backpack page. With schools, only flyers considered appropriate for that grade level will be published. For example, a driver's education flyer will appear on high school-level Digital Backpacks, while a LEGO bricks engineering activity may only display on elementary school pages. The Digital Backpack will continue to operate as a way to offer external extracurricular activities and support local businesses, while minimizing the amount of materials sent home in physical backpacks.

Classroom Pages

With SchoolWires, teachers can continue to host a blog for classroom topics, and they can customize viewing and participation permissions. However, they're encouraged to migrate their classrooms into the district's Schoology site, and a link will be located in the "My Passkeys" window near each site's header. Because Schoology is a real-name service like Facebook, students cannot post using a pseudonym, where only their teacher knows their offline identity. If that's important to classroom discussions, then they may choose to use the SchoolWires TeacherApp and blog. When a teacher hosts classroom discussions, quizzes, surveys or a calendar, they take full responsibility for maintaining that content.

Charter Schools

District 49 charter schools have the option to also transition to the new responsive, personalized website design. For the July 1 launch, they were required to notify the district's communications department in May. As of June 1, three charter schools finalized a decision to purchase sites:

  1. Imagine Indigo Ranch
  2. Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning
  3. Rocky Mountain Classical Academy

Responsive Design for Mobile Devices

During the first semester of the 2013-2014 school year in District 49, roughly 30 percent of D49.org’s website visitors used a browser on a mobile device. Globally, this year, mobile Internet use is expected to match desktop use,[3] and then quickly exceed it.[4] District 49’s new templates will dynamically adapt each of the district’s websites for various screen sizes, as well as the touch-based navigation expected with mobile devices. The breaking points start at 768 pixels, and continue at 640, 480 and 320. Each shift in design will include an option to "View Full Site," which returns the website to its full resolution format, regardless of the accessing device's screen size.

Standardized Navigation

The new website will provide increased website consistency from elementary to high school, while ensuring suitable grade-level content is quickly accessible. Throughout each student’s academic career, website navigation will strive to remain more predictable for parents. Households with multiple enrollments spanning two or more schools will find it easier to locate information. As each child graduates from elementary to middle school, and then middle to high school, the website will strive to ensure his or her parents continue to find the information that’s most important to their family. The following table contains the latest navigation scheme, as of June 10, 2014, but the district's communications department is continuing to review parent and staff surveys for possible adjustments.

District Elementary School Middle School High School
  1. District Info
  2. Portfolio of Schools
  3. Student Services
  4. Community Support
  5. Leadership
  • Trending Links
*Updated As Needed
  • Parents and Students
  • Future Families
  • Community Members
  • District Employees
  1. Principal
  2. School Info
  3. Student Services
  4. Parent Support
  5. Leadership
  • Quick Links
*School's Top Pages
  1. Principal
  2. School Info
  3. Student Services
  4. Parent Support
  5. Leadership
  • Quick Links
*School's Top Pages
  1. Principal
  2. School Info
  3. Student Services
  4. Parent Support
  5. Leadership
  • Quick Links
*School's Top Pages

Change in School URLs

The uniform resource locator, nearly always abbreviated as URL, is a specific character string used as a reference to an online resource. When someone is told to "find enrollment information at www.d49.org" or "go to skyview.d49.org," they're given a URL, or web address. Most website browsers today automatically append http:// (non secure) or https:// (secure) application protocols to abridged URLs. With the new District 49 websites launching July 1, school pages will reside in subdirectories instead of subdomains. As of June 1, the intention is to use school abbreviations. But the final decision will balance the needs to keep school URLs short, recognizable and predictable. In other words, Falcon High School is now located at falconhigh.d49.org, but may move to d49.org/FHS. Using domain name forwarding, which automatically directs visitors to a sub directory, traffic will be rerouted from the prior subdomains for a year or more, allowing enough time for homepage links in printed documents to get updated.

Logo Refresh

District 49's logo
As part of the website development process, District 49’s logo is also getting refreshed.

Staff Training

Most staff training will take place July 21 to Aug. 1. Notification will be sent to zone superintendents, school principals and assistant principals prior to moving the sites onto the D49.org domain. Some schools have information posted that others do not, information deemed important based on an extensive review of existing sites, and surveys where parents and staff explained what they expect to find on an elementary, middle or high school website. For that reason, the district's communications department may be contacting some building principals individually, ahead of the July 1 launch, to help fill gaps.

District 49's new portfolio of websites is extensive, comprehensive and packed with functionality, but it's asking for nearly the same amount of work from each school. When school administrative teams return from summer break, the district communications department will be covering six content areas; they're nearly the same expectations experienced last school year, under the district's previous content management system:

  1. How to keep the school calendar up-to-date and push events to the district calendar.
  2. How to post school announcements.
  3. How to maintain a principal's page with any commentaries, photos or autodialer messages from the administration.
  4. How to keep the school's staff directory up to date.
  5. How to keep the district's communications team informed of newsworthy items so they can populate school, zone and district pages with journalistic reports.
  6. How to edit sections.

New Accounts

Staff accounts will be authenticated and updated automatically via the district's mail sever, a connection called Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, more commonly known simply as LDAP. Staff members will be asked to register at D49.org with their district email address and password, which will create their account and start their LDAP connection. Community members will need to create an account by simply clicking a "Register" link and entering their information, which creates an account independent of any external authentication protocols. After registering, a "MyView" window will popup asking the registrant to select their schools of interest, as well as manage their content tabs and subscriptions.

References

  1. "Centricity2". SchoolWires. Retrieved April 4, 2014. 
  2. "Centricity2™ website and content management system". SchoolWires. Retrieved April 4, 2014. 
  3. "ComScore: Mobile Will Force Desktop Into Its Twilight In 2014". Business Insider. Retrieved April 4, 2014. 
  4. "New Study Shows the Mobile Web Will Rule by 2015 [STATS]". Mashable. Retrieved April 4, 2014.