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posted: 5/30/2012 12:19 PM

District 116 officials launch updated website to improve communication, offer more access

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By Jennifer Earl

Parents in Round Lake Area Unit District 116 will be able to access student grades and attendance records in the next school year through an updated website designed to boost communication.

Launched earlier this month, the new site, features intuitive navigation, more graphic content, electronic calendar views, and electronic communication options -- allowing people to receive emails or texts with news from administrators and faculty members.

Developed by SchoolPointe, a school website management company, it also features a translator that allows parents or community members who don't speak English to translate information on the website into another language.

Heather Bennett, the administrative assistant to the superintendent, said the new website is the first of many steps to comply with a five-year strategic plan calling for better communication.

"It's just one facet of the ways of communicating that we're trying to improve," she said. "This is the largest reaching source that we have."

Superintendent Constance Collins said the community can expect to see expansion of web-based communication in the future.

Next school year, parents will be able to be more involved in their child's schoolwork by receiving online access to student data through a "parent portal." The portal will provide on-demand family access to student data such as grades and attendance records.

"This will be completely new. There were individual teachers who may have had blogs, but now as we move forward with the portal it will be on a district-live basis," Collins said.

Some teachers began piloting the parent portal this year.

Bennett said all teachers will be trained next year to operate their individual pages.

The District 116 board recently approved a new communications specialist position to oversee the website and other social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Officials hope to fill the job before the next school year.

District officials hope to expand offerings, including podcasts, in the future.

"Our goal, as we move down the road and years to come, is that this website will have taken input from family, staff, and the community so that it has information useful to everyone and meets the needs of our internal and external stakeholders," Collins said.

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