Feb 01, 2019

Yes, Your School Website Still Matters—A Lot.  Here's Why. 

School districts have many options today for communicating with families, staff, and community members—social media, email, robocall or text notification systems, learning management systems, and other specialized apps and platforms. So, do you really still need to worry about keeping your school website up-to-date on top of everything else?

Yes. The school or district website is still the heart of a comprehensive communication plan. Here's why. 

Your school website is the first place people look for the information they need the most. 

Your website fills an important role in your overall communication plan: it compiles all of the most important information about your school or district in one central place where it is always accessible. Need a copy of the school calendar? Check the school website. Curious about what's for lunch this week? The menu’s on the website. Looking for enrollment forms? They're on the website. Want to know who your home team is playing this weekend? Website! Curious about your school district's academic results? W-e-b-s-i-t-e. 

People in your community come to your website looking for all kinds of information, from school policies to the latest district news. Your website acts as a central hub and archive where people can quickly find exactly what they are looking for, whenever they happen to need it. 

Social media, notification systems, LMS platforms and other newer forms of media don't offer the same experience. They are great for breaking news and quick reminders, but don't offer a simple way to search or browse for older posts or basic information. Things get buried quickly under a barrage of newer announcements. 

A school website keeps everything organized and findable. It is always available, enables search and navigation, and easy to update with new information. It's simple, and it works. 

Not everyone is an "insider."

Many communication platforms—such as notification systems and LMSs—are set up as "members only" spaces. People may need to log in with a password to see information. Or they may need to be registered with an email address or cell phone number to get news and alerts.  

This is fine if you are able to get 100% of your constituents signed up on your chosen platform, and if no one else ever needs to see the information. However, there are many people who may want to see information about your school or district who are not registered in these systems. These people could include:

  • prospective families considering a move into your district

  •  grandparents, foster parents, and other extended family members 

  • reporters looking for information

  •  potential mentors and volunteers from the community

  • teachers and other job seekers interested in applying to your district

  • alumni keeping track of hometown news

  • local employers whose workforce may be impacted by school closures

  •  members of general public trying to decide if they should support a levy

All of these people have a legitimate interest in knowing what is happening at your school or district, but are unlikely to be signed up for your LMS or notification system. They need a public, online resource where they can find the information they are looking for—also known as a website! 

Even among families and staff, there is a need for information that is public and online. People forget login information or don't bother to check other systems. They shut down due to channel overload. They ignore alerts and notifications when they come in on email or text and don't know how to go back and find them later. They change their contact information and forget to notify the school. Some simply aren’t interested in and don’t participate in social media. A public school website allows them to look for information when they decide they need it, without trying to remember where to go to get it. 

Yes, teachers still need webpages, too.

What about teacher pages? Surely they are becoming obsolete with all of the other communication platforms and learning management systems out there, right?

Wrong. A public teacher class pageis important for all the same reasons your school website matters. It allows students and families to quickly find contact information, class calendars, and other important news and resources without having to log in to another platform or remember where they need to go. And it provides a permanent, easily findable archive of the most important information about the class. 

To make life easier for families and students looking for class information, the teacher class page should be part of the main school website. If teachers are creating free pages on Google Class or building their own websites on other platforms, parents and students may not remember where they need to go to find them. Teacher-created pages may also be poorly designed and fail to conform to the brand standards of the school. That's why eChalk teacher pagesare fully integrated with the school website, so teachers can quickly create a page that uses the same design template as the main site and is automatically indexed so families can find it in the school directory. 

Your community simply expects it. 

The bottom line—if you don't have a school website, do you even exist? A website is a basic requirement for any modern business or organization, and schools are no exception. People look for a school website first when they are seeking information about you because they are sure that they will be able to find it there. And if they can't find what they need on your website, often they have no idea where to look next. 

If you don't keep your public school website up to date, or if yours is difficult to navigate or doesn’t work well on a mobile device, your office staff can expect to field a LOT more inquiries from families and community members looking for basic information. Any time and cost savings realized by eliminating your website or letting it stay static and out of date will be more than erased by the added staff time required to take phone calls and email out information. 

A school website is findable in public search engines and enables people to help themselves to the information, forms, and documents they need. It's a win-win for your staff AND your community. 

While social media and other platforms all have important roles in a school communication plan, school and teacher websites are not going away anytime soon. They are the silent workhorses of your school, providing maximum utility to your community in the simplest way possible.