Parents use smartphones to connect with Mounds View schools

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2013 - 4:41 PM

The Mounds View district upgraded its website so parents can get information, including their children’s school records.

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The Mounds View School District launched Mounds View Mobile this month.

 

With 91 percent of its parents and nearly two-thirds of its students using smartphones, the Mounds View School District has upgraded its website to better serve mobile users. Now people with smartphones can easily check grades, class assignments, even school lunch menus on the go.

Parents also will have immediate access to school information in case of an emergency, a district official said. The district rolled out Mounds View Mobile this month.

“Parents want this. They are using smartphones to access all kinds of information that is important to them — newspapers, e-mail, Facebook, social media. It makes complete sense we have a position alongside all of these other sources of news and information,” said Colin Sokolowski, the district’s public relations director.

For parent Alicia Baraga, the mobile service means she can look up the phone number of the attendance office while she’s running out the door and even see what her three school-age daughters bought for lunch that day.

“I love it. This is very slick and clean,” said the Shoreview mom, describing the mobile site that features easy-to-click links.

Baraga said her daughters often go to the school website to double-check assignments and lunches menus. Two of them have smartphones, and being able to access that information on their phone makes it even easier.

Before the mobile launch, using a smartphone to navigate the district’s website, which was designed for computer users, was a bit clumsy, parents said.

The Mounds View district serves 10,000 students in several north-metro cities: Shore­view, Arden Hills, Mounds View, North Oaks and New Brighton. It spent around $16,000 to make its website mobile friendly. That amount is a fraction of what it takes to build and maintain a school district website annually, Sokolowski said.

Users don’t need to download an app to navigate the site. Both iPhones and androids are directed automatically to the mobile version of the website at www.moundsviewschools.org. That’s by design, because district officials wanted to make it as simple to use as possible, Sokolowski said. The district does provide step-by-step instructions so parents can pin an icon on their home screen that appears alongside all their other apps, he said.

Other school districts, including Anoka-Hennepin, also are making their websites mobile-friendly as more parents invest in smartphones. About half of all Americans own smartphones, according to a 2012 Nielsen study.

“Apps and mobile content has been around with higher education — college and universities — for some time. They are just beginning to make their way into K-12 education,” Sokolowski said.

One of the most popular features on the Mounds View website is SchoolView, a portal that gives parents secure access to their children’s records, including grades and attendance.

Almost 70 percent of Mound View parents surveyed said they used SchoolView in 2012.◄

Darcy LaPanta is both a parent and a teacher in the district. She requires her seventh-grade son to complete all schoolwork before playing sports or hanging out with friends.

“I can look on my phone and know if he’s caught up in one minute. I can do that anywhere, even in the car,” LaPanta said. “It eliminates a lot of arguments and guessing.”

Looking at things from her other vantage point, as a seventh-grade English teacher at Edgewood Middle School, she said quick mobile access to the website is improving parent-teacher communication.

“That really helps parents stay engaged and know what’s going on with their kids,” LaPanta said.

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