Students, parents and faculty will have a new way to stay updated with Manchester school news and events as the unveiled what it calls a more interactive website Wednesday.
"One of the board's main thrusts — and one of the superintendent's — is to continue to look at different ways to increase communication with the board, the town, the school district and the town," said Superintendent of Schools David Trethaway. "We thought it was in our best interest to improve our web page. We've done a number of things to do that."
The district contracted with Schoolwires to build the website for $5,000, said Lee Bruzaitis, district public relations officer, which is the same cost of the Chalk Talk calendars that will no longer be distributed to parents. A smaller paper calendar will be available when the school year begins.
That cost includes technical support, said board President Donald Webster.
"It's written in a programming language that is more modern," he said. "What we were using was an antique and wasn't supported anymore. We're leaping into the 21st century."
The old website was only accessible by herself and Technology Coordinator Chip Conover, Bruzaitis said. The new system will allow staff to edit their own pages independently.
"Now everyone has their own area that they can access and edit, so there will be a lot more contribution," she said. "They can use this software at home, in the coffee shop, at school, anywhere they are. They don't need any special kind of software at home or any kind of special equipment except for their password."
The new system allows users, including staff and parents, to interact in various ways, most notably with interactive calendars.
"The calendar is very dynamic," Bruzaitis said. The school district, individual schools and teachers can set up their own calendars.
"You can tell it which calendars you want to see — that you want to see events from , or the . It will pull up the calendar that you want, and you can print it and export it."
Bruzaitis said that this is "key" to keeping people informed.
"At the school level and at the teacher level, everyone can change their own calendar where ever they are, immediately," Bruzaitis said. "They don't have to wait for us."
Bruzaitis demoed the site for the board during its August regular monthly meeting, and showed off the different landing pages for each school and the district as a whole.
Though the site is now up and running, it isn't yet live at the district's online home at www.Manchestertwp.com.
"We haven't been able to push everything over yet, but we're close," Bruzaitis said. The new website is expected to switch to that web address "in a few weeks," according to Bruzaitis.
Those already signed up for email alerts from the school district will have to register another account for the new website.
"Anyone can register to be a user of the site," she said.
Blogs, photo galleries, videos and private areas for staff and students should be rolled out in the coming months, Bruzaitis said.
"We'll also be gathering input from users to help us continue to develop the site," she said
About about 75 teachers voluntarily came in during the summer for training. Bruzaitis said that she has also been training principals and their secretaries.
"They're very excited about it," she said. "I think it's going to catch on very quickly. It's very easy to use."