Let’s get dig­i­tal

Peñasco schools look to app to con­tinue tech evo­lu­tion

The Taos News - - EDUCATION - By Cody Hooks [email protected]­news.com

The Peñasco Val­ley may not have ac­cess to natural gas in­fra­struc­ture or the con­ve­nience of a large gro­cery store, but its schools are in the midst of a dig­i­tal evo­lu­tion to bring its stu­dents, par­ents, ad­min­is­tra­tors and — in the logic of ru­ral places — the whole com­mu­nity closer to­gether.

As with a lot of is­sues in mod­ern life, there’s an app for that.

Dur­ing a Tues­day (Dec. 18) meeting of the Peñasco In­de­pen­dent School Dis­trict’s Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, the elected of­fi­cials dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of in­te­grat­ing most of the schools’ com­mu­ni­ca­tions into a plat­form that en­tices par­ents to par­tic­i­pate even more in their kids’ ed­u­ca­tion.

“This could give us the com­mu­ni­ca­tion we’ve been want­ing,” said Dar­ren Griego, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy di­rec­tor for the dis­trict.

Specif­i­cally, the schools are toy­ing with the idea of de­vel­op­ing an app for smart­phones and tablets that would be a one-stop-shop for news briefs, ath­letic sched­ules, game scores, lunch menus and con­tact in­for­ma­tion for staff.

The app, which would be de­vel­oped by an Arkansas­based com­pany called Appt­egy, could also send out emer­gency no­ti­fi­ca­tions; par­ents would not need a smart­phone or tablet to get those mes­sages.

It’s likely that par­ents and guardians would use the app, ac­cord­ing to su­per­in­ten­dent Marvin MacAu­ley.

About 70 per­cent of par­ents al­ready use an­other app that’s in­te­grated with stu­dent’s aca­demics, he said, so it’s not a leap to sim­ply down­load an­other easy-touse ap­pli­ca­tion. That app, called Pow­erS­chool, lets par­ents keep track of their chil­dren’s as­sign­ments, grades and at­ten­dance.

As a cou­ple of the board mem­bers said, the app could be a venue to com­mu­ni­cate “the good things go­ing on” in the dis­trict, such as Wed­nes­day’s (Dec. 19) win­ter fes­ti­val or reg­u­lar “stu­dent of the month” pep ral­lies.

The com­pany pitched the app as a time-saver for ad­min­is­tra­tors who are al­ready over­stretched and wear­ing too many hats. The in­ter­face would let reg­is­tered ad­min­is­tra­tors like MacAu­ley cre­ate a sin­gle mes­sage that could be pushed to all plat­forms (Face­book, Twit­ter, email and text, for ex­am­ple) in­stead of need­ing to re­post the same mes­sage mul­ti­ple times.

The pro­posal also in­cludes a new web­site. Ac­cord­ing to the su­per­in­ten­dent, the cost of do­ing both the web­site and app would still be cheaper than what the dis­trict cur­rently pays for web­site host­ing.

The pro­posal would need to be ap­proved by the board at a fu­ture meeting to go for­ward.

How­ever, the mo­bile strat­egy is only one el­e­ment of dig­i­tal up­grades to the dis­trict.

A new phone sys­tem, which will op­ti­mize a lim­ited amount of band­width for the dis­trict, is be­ing in­stalled. Mean­while, all lap­tops are be­ing retro­fit­ted as Google Chrome­books, which should make it easier for stu­dents to do things, such as down­load and turn in their home­work, said Griego.

And stu­dents are us­ing the tech­nol­ogy they al­ready have. Griego said the Peñasco school com­plex usu­ally has 800 de­vices (in­clud­ing stu­dent lap­tops and cell phones) con­nected to the wifi each day. It’s a re­mark­able num­ber of con­nected de­vices, given that the dis­trict has about 375 stu­dents.

Cour­tesy im­age

Peñasco school lead­ers are con­sid­er­ing hir­ing a com­pany to build an app for the dis­trict that would be a one-stop-shop for most of the dis­trict’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions: event an­nounce­ments, lunch menus and sports games and scores. The app, if ap­proved in 2019, would be part of the dis­trict’s “dig­i­tal evo­lu­tion,” said in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy di­rec­tor Dar­ren Griego.

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