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The Smoke Signal

District redesigns website

Mobile app coming in the fall

Jamie Ryu, Staff Editor

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The Pascack Valley community can say goodbye to the familiar old website. The technology department launched a new website on the afternoon of June 9. In addition, the administration plans to launch a mobile app in the fall.

According to Mr. Paul Zeller, Director of Instructional Technology in the Pascack Valley Regional High School District, there have been talks of possibly changing the website since October.

One of the biggest reasons for the change was the lack of mobile-friendliness in the old website.

“This is a lot more mobile-friendly. One of the biggest complaints, especially in recent years, has been trying to navigate the site on a mobile device, which is the primary way parents get to it,” Zeller said. “On the old website, it was a nightmare.”

The district has used a product called Schoolwires, which was acquired by the company Blackboard in 2015, as a host of the website for the past decade.

Schoolwires not only lacked mobile integration but was also “cumbersome” to edit and “often times outright just didn’t work,” Zeller said. Additionally, the the old site cost about twice what the new website costs.

The new website costs about $8,000 a year, according to Zeller. While this is no different than the $8000 the district spent on the old website, the new website is accompanied by a mobile application, as well as the ability to conduct reverse 911 phone calls, or the ability for an individual or organization to call a large group of people at once, something that the district used to pay for separately.

“When you add up all the old costs, it was about $16,000,” Zeller said. “Bundling them all together, we’ve basically cut the cost in half.”

The new website is hosted by a company called SchoolMessenger and a product called “Presence.” SchoolMessenger, and other school website providers, comes equipped with special, school centric templates that other, more general website providers do not come with.

From February until now, it’s been designing the site, getting the site built, migrating the information over, testing it, all those pieces.”

— Mr. Paul Zeller

“All schools have board meetings. All schools have a news site. All schools have an athletics site, so [school website providers] have a lot of those designs already in place,” Zeller said. “If you went to some commercial [website provider], then you’d have to spend a lot of time designing specific things for school. We don’t have the personnel and the time to do all that work.”

After researching for months, Zeller narrowed the list of possible options of companies that provide websites to schools from twelve to four. Afterwards, he presented the four final options to the administration, giving them cost breakdowns and the benefits and drawbacks between all of them. They collectively decided on which one they preferred around February, according to Zeller.

“From February until now,” Zeller said, “it’s been designing the site, getting the site built, migrating the information over, testing it, all those pieces.”

The new website, while public, is still a work in progress. The old website will be defunct as of July 1. As a result, the Technology Department decided to make the new website public earlier, in case there were any missing components from the old website on the new website. While they had originally planned to launch the new website in May, there were delays from SchoolMessenger in designing the site.  

“The structure [of the website] as it stands is pretty much it’s final form,” Zeller said. “But we’re still working on the content, getting it up to date, and adding more.”

The whole goal was: get the website up, get the content over, then over the summer work on getting the app developed, and get everything ready for the fall.”

— Paul Zeller

According to Zeller, every faculty member will be getting a headshot attached to their names and displayed on the website. Headshots will be taken within the next couple of days and the tech department will work over the summer to post every picture on the website.

“By Sept. 1, there should be a picture of each and every one,” Zeller said.

Additionally, teachers will be invited to add biographies to their faculty pages, if they so choose. Some already information about their degrees on their pages.

Adding to their already busy summer, the new website comes with a mobile app, which the tech department will help in designing. Zeller hopes it will be ready to launch by September.

“I don’t know what it’s going to look like yet,” Zeller said. “The whole goal was: get the website up, get the content over, then over the summer work on getting the app developed, and get everything ready for the fall.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “District redesigns website”

  1. Elena Valentino on June 13th, 2017 7:40 pm

    Mr. Zeller’s awesome Tech Dept. scores a home run, again! I really miss the Z-man and the team since I retired.

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Pascack Valley High School's Official News Site: Where there's smoke, there's fire.
District redesigns website