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School websites have two primary goals. The first is to act as an on-line brochure for prospective students and parents, providing them with as much information as possible to help them decide if your school may be right for them. The second goal is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of communication between students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Here’s a list of 12 things every school website should include in order to reach those two goals.
- Friendly, appealing design. Parents are looking for a school that exemplifies excellence, therefore it’s vital that the school website – often a parent’s first impression – exemplifies excellence. If your website looks, cheap, neglected, obsolete, or disorganized, people will infer that your school is that as well.
- Pictures of happy, diverse, smart-looking students. When prospective parents see images of students they’re going to subconsciously ask themselves “Do I want my child to become like that?” Pictures of actual students are best, but you have to get the consent of the students’ parents to use them and for safety reasons should only refer to students by their first name if at all. Using stock photos is OK too. To attract students of all ages, genders, and ethnicities it’s important to represent them in the images you put on your site.
- “About Us” page that describes the history and educational philosophy of the school plus any affiliations, associations, accreditations, and awards the school may have received. If you’re ambitious, create a short video overview and embed it in this page.
- Enrollment information. There should be at least one page design specifically for prospective students and parents that describes the application process, deadlines, and any openings the school may currently have.
- Contact info for the main school office
- Staff directory preferably with a contact form for every teacher and administrator so parents can get in touch with teachers if they’d like to.
- Map of your school’s location
- Up-to-date calendar of school-wide events
- Schedules for all the sports teams.
- E-newsletter with subscription and archives online. Having an school-wide e-newsletter is a must. Schools may also want to have e-newsletters for each class and extra curricular activities.
- Documents. Frequently used documents like permission slips, application for enrollment, student handbook, lunch order forms, and so on. Making these documents available online can save considerable time and expense over printing, handing out, or mailing them repeatedly. PDF format is usually the best format for these documents.
- Class pages. Each teacher ought to have a page for the class(es) they teach. Ideally these could be updated weekly with news and homework assignments, but even something as simple as a link to the class syllabus is very helpful
What do you think are the most important elements for a school website?