Community Unit District 300 will move to the forefront of mobile communications this summer as it launches a new app giving parents, students and community members a one-stop shop for district information.
Superintendent Michael Bregy presented the app to board members Monday night, showing its comprehensive, user-friendly design. The app allows users to customize the information they see by school so parents of Jacobs High School students don't have to read about an early closing at Algonquin Middle School if they don't want to. It also offers a calendar that is equally customizable, a directory with email addresses of all school employees and a tip line that lets users send photos along with text and say whether their tip is school-specific or districtwide.
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The app brings information from the district website, safety hotline, calendars, teacher grade books, online payment systems and social media sources to mobile devices.
Bregy said the hope is to offer the app in August during the first month of school, and he called it a "progressive" step that few other districts in the area have taken.
"Our community expects instant communication," Bregy said. "This will help us get there."
Indian Prairie Unit District 204 and the Kaneland school district offer the same service.
About 90 percent of families in District 300 have a cellphone number on file and at least 11 percent of them consider it their primary phone number, according to Allison Strupeck, director of communication services.
Strupeck said the search for a mobile app started when the district had to consider renewing the contract for its rapid communication system, which launched in 2008. That system has been used thousands of times in the last five years for routine communications as well as emergency alerts.
Strupeck said the district looked for competitive pricing from vendors able to package the rapid communication system and mobile app services, ultimately recommending Utah-based ParentLink.
District 300 school board members approved a three-year contract Monday that will cost $2.90 per student. That's $1.05 more per child than it is already paying for its rapid communication system. The state's sixth-largest district serves 21,000 students.
"We would be a leader in the state and the region," Strupeck said. "But we think this really will be a wave of the future."