Your kid ate whole grain fajitas for lunch. Tomorrow’s a snow day. The bus is delayed. Your kid is missing too much school. ... You can now find out that information on your smartphone.
That’s thanks to a new app the Board of Education unveiled Friday.
It has all the information and links on the Board of Ed site, and more, and is a free download from Apple or Android app stores online, said schools spokeswoman Abbe Smith. You just go to the online store, search for “New Haven Public Schools,” select the icon with the “nhps” letters and logo, and download.
The unveiling of the spiffy new app was the centerpiece of a press conference at the East Rock School. Superintendent Garth Harries (pictured with East Rock Principal Peggy Pelley) put the app in the context of several other new initiatives to improve what he called “customer service” and communication between the school system and parents.
Harries said that was one of the recurrent messages he came away with from a “listening tour” he took upon becoming superintendent.
The three other arrows being added to the Board of Ed’s communications quiver include:
• An improved NHPS website that now includes a new parent-created site where parents from different schools across the district can “talk” to each other and the administration on issues of concern. “We’re encouraging it. We hope they say good things about us,” said Harries.
• An expanded version of the system’s “welcome team,” a table of parents and staffers set up at Board of Ed headquarters to make the atmosphere more, well, welcoming.
• A new, easier-to-deal-with and simple email domain. Instead of reaching Will Clark, the chief operating officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org, youcan dispense with all those hyphens and periods and instead type in more simply: email@example.com .
By far the star of the show was the new app. The president of East Rock’s parent teacher organization and a member of the citywide Board of Ed, Daisy Gonzalez (pictured with the mayor), called the app’s “idea box” her favorite feature.
“It gives parents more of a voice than they have now. [Before] they’d have to go down to Gateway [board headquarters], make an appointment to see an administrator. Now they go right to the smartphone, submit their idea, and the administration reads it,” she said.
Gonzalez also said she liked the ease of use, which Clark pointed out takes a lot fewer clicks than navigating the board website on computer.
“All I have to do is tap that puppy, and you find out what’s going on,” Gonzalez said, as she did so.
Clark called the app an “added tool” to help parents manage the whole range of information available to parents—from the lunch menu, to snow day info, to the calendar and meetings, to learning about their kids’ attendance and homework assignments.
About 20 to 30 percent of the school system’s 20,000 children do not have a home computer, Clark estimated. For them, access to the board site will now be available via phone. Clark said one reason for the app’s creation is that officials also noticed a—no surprise—decreasing use of landlines and uptick in use of cell phones.
Clark called the new system a step forward for staff communications, too. If a bus is delayed, for example, or there’s an accident, the transportation coordinator can use the phone, on location, to send a message to the particular parents whose kids are on the bus. That information, however, will go to the parents’ cell phones, not appear on the app—at least not yet.
“This is just the beginning. Enjoy the app,” said Clark.
The app also uploads to tablets and iPads or Android mobile devices, but not to your computer.