App new way for school district to communicate

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — For Southwest Dubois Schools, the start of the school year seemed like the perfect time to launch something new.

Over the summer, a team headed by Instructional Technology Director Katy Beck redesigned the school’s website and built a mobile app to better connect the schools with the community. The app, which includes the most used features from the school’s website, is another way for community members to stay up to date with the schools that serve them.

“We’re trying to improve every aspect of communication in our corporation,” Beck said. “The app is easier for mobile users.”

Beck said website analytics showed that about 40% of users were accessing the corporation’s website from a mobile device, such as their phones or tablets, prompting the corporation to develop an app. Searchable in both the Apple and Android app stores with “Southwest Dubois,” the app puts parts of the website at people’s fingertips. It includes schedules for school and athletic events, news, notifications and a staff list, as well as pages for each of the corporation’s four schools.

“It’s not replacing the website,” Beck said. “The app only has the most popular features. More details will still be on the website, although they do sync together.”

Southwest Dubois is not the first local school district to develop a phone app. Both Greater Jasper and North Spencer have phone apps with features similar to what Southwest Dubois offers, and Northeast Dubois is considering developing one. Northeast Dubois Technology Director Andy Chinn said the corporation has gotten as far as talks with mobile app vendors.

“I’m hopeful that it is something we will have soon,” he said.

Local schools also use apps and programs, such as School Messenger, that allow school officials and teachers to send messages directly to parents. While those programs have a similar purpose to the phone apps, Beck said each fills a different niche. School Messenger and similar programs are for communication between parents and schools and tend to be mostly utilized by school staff. The apps are for anyone in the community to connect with the schools.

“We’re really excited about [the app],” Beck said.

Since the school corporation launched the app at the beginning of August, there have been about 1,000 downloads. Beck plans to monitor the app’s use throughout the year to see which features are most popular and to look for ways to improve it.

“It’s really going to be a work in progress over this year,” she said. “We’re going to improve the most popular features and make it as user-friendly as we can.”




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