10 Critical Features of a School Website
Almost every school has a website. Whether those websites contain all the necessary features is a different story. School websites do so much more than create an online presence. They have to provide support for students, staff, parents and community members. Recognize your website for what it really is—a valuable resource stakeholders can turn to when they need answers.
Support the people in your community by making sure your school’s website contains the following critical features:
1. Event calendar
There’s a lot happening at your school! From soccer tryouts to food drives, stakeholders want to get involved. Your school’s website is the first place they will look for information, such as the date, time and location of each event. Stakeholders should be able to access all this information with just a single click.
An online calendar provides event information all in one convenient spot. Instead of digging through backpacks for a missing paper slip, parents and students can turn to your website’s calendar any time they need event information. Calendars can help spread the word about events, too. As they peruse the calendar, stakeholders might discover interesting events they didn’t even know about!
2. Staff directory
Students and families often need to communicate with teachers, coaches or administrators. A parent might want to check in with teachers about their student’s progress in the classroom. A student might reach out to a coach or club advisor about a co-curricular opportunity. For these reasons and many others, stakeholders should be able to find names, phone numbers and email addresses in one centralized location.
A staff directory quickly connects stakeholders with the people working in your school. All stakeholders have to do is click the directory link at the top of your website, and they can get in direct contact with the staff members they need. You can help stakeholders find contact information even faster by providing a search field at the top of the directory list.
3. Board minutes and agendas
Your school board makes critical decisions. These decisions impact not only students, but people in the surrounding community. Those who are heavily invested in your schools want to know what board members discuss at their meetings. And while these meetings are open to the public, not everyone is able to attend.
That’s why it’s important to have a web page with school board minutes, agendas and other pertinent information. Stakeholders can visit this page to get district updates and learn about new programs or initiatives. A school board page allows families and community members to stay in the loop anytime, anywhere.
4. Enrollment information
Your school’s website isn’t just a resource for current stakeholders. It’s a beacon that welcomes prospective students and their families. The website should provide everything families need to get involved with your school community. More specifically, they need a web page that walks them step by step through the enrollment process.
Enrollment information should be easily accessible on your school’s website. This includes deadlines, contact information, downloadable forms and a list of necessary documents. Online enrollment is easier and more convenient for families, which gives you a competitive advantage over districts that don’t offer this option.
5. School handbooks
Your school has policies and procedures for handling certain situations. However, parents and family members don’t always know what they are. They’re not sure how to report bullying. They’re not sure how to file a grievance. They’re not sure if symptomatic students need to quarantine or what the repercussions are for unexcused absences.
These uncertainties can be cleared up with a virtual school handbook. A highly visible link at the top of your website can give families all the information they need about anti-bullying and harassment policies, attendance, rights and responsibilities, student conduct and more. Virtual handbooks empower families to stay informed and ensure their students receive equal education opportunities.
6. Student resources
Students often need support beyond the classroom. Your school offers support in a variety of ways, from tutoring to meal programs to mental health counseling. Your school might even offer social services to help students cope with their home lives. Unfortunately, not every student knows these resources are available.
Make help readily accessible by putting a student resources page on your website. Here, students can discover people and programs that will support their academic success, as well as their physical, mental and emotional health. Let them know your school is always here to help!
7. Parent resources
Students aren’t the only ones who need resources. Some parents may notice their child is falling behind in school. Others might be dealing with behavior challenges at home. In order for families to support their children, your school has to support those families.
Connect families with support services by creating a parent resources page. On this page, you can provide information about behavior specialists, after-school programs, college advisors and more, putting family members in the best position to help their students.
8. Online portals
Online learning has become the norm. Students can view grades, submit assignments and access digital libraries from their portal accounts. Similarly, parents can use their own portal accounts to communicate with teachers and learn about volunteer opportunities. Students and parents need a place to access their accounts, and your school’s website is that place.
Portal links should be right at the top of your website. Students and parents use their portals almost every day, which means they have to be able to access them quickly and easily. They will likely want to access their portal accounts on the go, so consider offering portal apps for mobile devices in addition to the links on your website.
9. Careers page
Your school is looking to fill positions. There are qualified individuals who are eager to fill those positions. You need a place where prospective candidates can learn about career opportunities and submit their applications.
A careers page can help you bring new team members into your school community. The page should list available positions in your school, as well as the responsibilities and qualifications for each position. You could also add staff testimonials and a message from your superintendent to draw in candidates who align with your school’s mission and values.
10. Social media icons
A website is just one way for stakeholders to stay connected with your school. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are great for sharing stories and reminding stakeholders about important dates—that is, if stakeholders can find your school’s accounts!
Clickable icons can bring stakeholders straight to your school’s social media accounts. These icons are usually located in the header or footer of each web page. Or, you can place them in a floating menu that sits along the side of the page. Wherever you put the icons, make sure they’re highly visible so you can drive traffic to those social media accounts.
Does your website have these features?
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Your school’s website should contain all the features necessary to fulfill the needs of each stakeholder group. More importantly, those features must be easy to find. All the links and menu items should be organized into a user-friendly interface. The key is this: think about what your stakeholders need, and give it to them through an intuitive, highly accessible website.