The Mead School District has been using a smartphone app to keep connected with parents for the last two years that allows on-the-go parents to keep track of events and school news.
The school district was updating its website in 2016 when it also asked its vendor to create a phone app, said Doug Edmonson, executive director of technology services for the district. “We just kind of told them what we wanted on it,” he said. “We made sure our site was device responsive.”
Parents often have children in more than one school, which can make keeping track of events difficult, Edmonson said. App users can specify which schools they want to get notifications from. The app includes district news and school events such as games, plays and parent-teacher conferences.
“It can do push notifications as well,” he said.
The app is an addition to the district’s frequent presence on Facebook and Twitter, where there are often posts and tweets about student achievement, upcoming events and ongoing programs. “We have a pretty good following of parents and students on Twitter,” Edmonson said.
When the district has a levy or bond on the ballot it uses the app to help put out information about what the district is asking for and why. “That has been a huge deal,” he said.
Now the information available includes updates on the multiple construction projects going on in the district. “What we put on our site is pushed out to the app,” he said.
Edmonson said he considers the app to be an extra way to communicate with parents. “You can never communicate enough,” he said.
The one thing the app will not do is send safety alerts. Those messages will go out over the district’s school messenger system, Edmonson said. “That’s a lot faster,” he said. “That will send emails and text alerts simultaneously.”
Before the app was launched in 2016 parents were asking for it, Edmonson said. “People are satisfied with it,” he said. “It’s not an overly complicated app. It’s got the ease of use, the connectabiity.”
The app is available for Android and Apple devices. Statistics show there have been 2,389 active users since it was launched and has generated 171,502 page views in 48,005 sessions. Slightly more than 62 percent of the downloads were to Apple devices.
The number of downloads spikes every September when the district puts out information about the app to new students, but each spike has been slightly lower than the one before. Edmonson said he thinks that might be because of the district’s increased social media use since the app was launched.
“In 2016 we were not heavy Twitter and Facebook users,” he said.
The district has been growing in recent years and now has over 11,000 students. It’s a large district, but doesn’t approach the size of Spokane Public Schools, Edmonson said.
“We’re a big school district but we’re trying to feel like a small school district,” he said.
It’s not common for school districts to offer smartphone apps to parents, Edmonson said. “We’re always trying to push the envelope, that’s for sure, and make things easier for our community.”
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