Stevenson High launches app for students, parents

Stevenson High School students and parents can use a new mobile app to check grades, get assignments and take care of other important tasks.

The app, called SHS Now, is available in the iTunes store for Apple devices and in the Google Play store for machines that run Android software. Downloads are free.

"Our goal is to provide easy access for parents to (do) things such as contacting the school, (check) online grades, and put money into their students' lunch accounts," Stevenson High spokesman Jim Conrey said. "For students, the most valuable thing right now is probably links to Google (and) their school email."

The app also provides mobile access to assignments, documents, video links and other classroom information, Conrey said. It even has school news and a map of the school's sprawling Lincolnshire campus.

So far, the app has been downloaded nearly 400 times, Conrey said. Most customers added the app to Apple iPhones or iPads, he said.

Despite the proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers, apps for public high schools are relatively rare. Some only offer limited services, such as communication with staffers.

One of Stevenson's neighboring districts, Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128, launched a full-service app in 2012. It was among the first school districts in the nation to do so.

The District 128 app lets parents and community members look up teachers' phone numbers or email addresses, review lunch menus, watch videos from school events and access other district resources.

Stevenson High officials started talking about creating an app in early 2013.

The software was developed with Blackboard Mobile, a Washington, D.C., company that created the Libertyville High and Vernon Hills High apps as well as programs for other high schools and colleges across the nation.

The firm charged the school $20,000 for the first year of development work and $10,000 for the second year. This year, the fee rises to $11,025, Conrey said.

The next few months will be something of a testing period for Stevenson's app, Conrey said. Officials will take feedback from users and modify the software accordingly.

"It's a good addition to our communications stable, and I think it's only going to get better," Conrey said. "My sense is that we've probably just scratched the surface in terms of capabilities and features."

A screenshot shows various elements of the Stevenson High School mobile app, called SHS Now. Courtesy of Stevenson High School
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