Parents with students in Spokane Public Schools can expect to find an email in their inbox next week offering them to chance to sign up for a new digital program called Peach Jar that will deliver information from their child’s school directly to parents instead of sending it home with students.
“It’s a digital backpack, essentially,” said SPS Communications and Community Relations Director Brian Coddington. “It replaces the flyers that got sent home with students.”
The problem with the flyer system is that it only worked if students remembered to give the flyers to their parents, Coddington said. “Maybe it makes it out of the backpack, maybe it doesn’t,” he said. “We hear stories about not receiving information.”
Peach Jar will provide a one-stop shop for information from community partners and the school district, he said. “We think it’s going to be helpful and beneficial to our families. As a parent, you receive a lot of information. This is a way to organize that.”
The digital system has been under consideration for more than a year. The district has been doing research, including talking to other districts who already use Peach Jar, Coddington said. “It’s something we’ve been looking at for a while,” he said.
These days people are used to getting information on their phone so it’s only natural to go digital, he said. The district has tried to spread the word about the new program on social media and on its website.
“We’ve already begun communicating with families that it’s coming,” he said.
Peach Jar is free for families, and cost the district a one-time $15,000 fee. Peach Jar makes money by having community organizations who use the system pay a fee to distribute their flyers, but it’s not exorbitant, Coddington said.
“It will be less than printing out the flyers,” he said of the fee.
Community organizations who want to distribute information via Peach Jar have to submit an online application before they can begin distributing information. Coddington said a lot of flyers sent home have to do with youth sports camps and other activities.
Once an organization is signed up, it electronically submits its flyer for review by the district before it is distributed, just as the old paper flyers were reviewed before distribution.
“It will still go through the same process,” he said.
The organization can choose which schools get the flyers, when they are sent out and how long the information is live, Coddington said. The district will also be able to tell if the information has been read, he said.
“It’s more reliable,” Coddington said.
While community organizations have to pay to use the system, the school district does not. Coddington said the new system will be used to distribute the district’s back-to-school packets that are given to each of its 30,000 students. He estimates that distributing the packets digitally instead of on paper will save the district enough money in printing costs to cover the $15,000 fee. The digital distribution system is also more environmentally friendly, Coddington said.
The introductory emails from Peach Jar are scheduled to be sent to parents on Aug. 1. If parents don’t receive an email they can contact their child’s school or the district office to make sure they get signed up, Coddington said. Families with no digital devices can access peachjar.com from a public library, work or other means, he said.
The district will make information posted on Peachjar available as needed in hard copy and work with community partners to do the same. SPS families regularly receive information via email and access information online now, Coddington said.
He anticipates the Peach Jar system will help the district distribute information more efficiently and also make things easier for the community organizations who use it.
“We think it’s going to be a benefit to everyone,” he said.
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