Education — District is taking steps to improve access to school information and resources

Amid the effort to integrate technology into the classroom, the Newberg School District is also stepping into the 21st century to better connect students and parents to school information and resources. by: GARY ALLEN - In the palm of your hand - The Newberg School District has released a mobile app to help students, parents and members of the community more easily connect with its most sought after information. The free app features push notifications for instant alerts from school, calendar information, school and district news, a tip line tool, school directories and more.

The district’s first-ever mobile app, which is free through both iTunes and Google Play, is the most visible new tool, but new phone and library systems also promise to improve access.

“It’s really going to be delivering news and information people want about schools in a very convenient location,” district spokeswoman Claudia Stewart said. “We’re finding people may not have computers at home, but they have a smart phone or they’ve got a tablet device.”

The Newberg School District App features push notifications, instant alerts, a tip-line tool, school news and calendars. Users can customize their settings to choose the schools from which they will receive alert, notification, news and calendar information.

Some functions of the app, like news, resources, bus routes and lunch menus, simply congregate and/or link to stories posted to various district and individual school web pages, which are then viewed on the mobile device’s browser. As soon as a story is posted to a school web page, it will become available through the app.

The mobile app can be operated in more than 60 different languages, but the external web pages that the app links to will not be translated.

Other functions operate completely within the app itself, like the tip line, which allow users to report activities from bullying and fighting to threats and drugs.

“Not only will this provide an avenue on vandalism or somebody in distress, but you can also use a photo feature on your phone or mobile device,” Stewart said. “If you saw some graffiti, just take a picture of it and send it in, direct it to the school you want it to go to. If it includes or involves a crime, it will also go as a text message to our school resource officer.”

Using the directory function, which is organized by school, users can send emails or make phone calls directly from the app.

The district has also implemented a new student information system, Synergy, which includes password-protected portals to student grades, attendance, missed assignments and more, thereby replacing the third-party service Edline that the district had been using. The new portals, known as Studentvue and Parentvue, will be added to the app in about a month, giving staff time to adjust to the new system.

The app also connects to the district’s new Destiny Quest library system, which allows parents and students to browse the catalog and check out books via the web.

A new digital phone system was funded by the recent bond measure and promises to be more reliable. It includes an improved messaging system that can deliver messages via email, better assuring teachers receive them from parents.

“A year ago at this time we were just plagued with dropped calls and poor connections, especially over at the high school,” Stewart said. “It was an old PBX (private branch exchange) system. When we went to repair the phones, there were no parts any longer. We were just cannibalizing the equipment we had to repair the phones.”

Lastly, the district will no longer distribute paper flyers for camps, classes, sports notices, calendars and other opportunities for students – the same information formerly found in the Friday Folder — within schools or to parents via their children. Rather, digital versions will be available online at the district and individual school sites’ community calendar or via the mobile app. Some hard copies will still be available in school offices.

The effort will not only cut back on paper use, but save time for school staff who previously had to divide and deliver flyers to teachers, who in turn did the same for students.

“Instead of using students as carrier pigeons, we’re going to do an electronic Friday Folder twice a month,” Stewart said. “We’ve also added our community calendar to the front page of the (district) website and will be posting events on that calendar as well.”

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