BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER Jun 7, 2016
DANVERS — Forget to give your kids lunch money today? No problem — an app for Danvers Public Schools allows parents to pay for their kids’ lunch online, and do a host of other things, all from their smartphones.
Thanks to Stirling Brandworks, a Winchester web marketing firm, Danvers schools have rolled out a mobile application for both Apple and Android smartphones.
The app is designed to let parents, teachers, students and the community track school-related resources. App users can track tweets and other social media posts from the district’s schools, make lunch payments, add school-related events to their calendar, and visit the student and parent portals.
Users can also be notified of emergency alerts and district updates through the app.
The app presently features a way to register for a bus pass for the 2016-17 school year, or take a survey on the community’s perspectives on the district. There is even a tab for sending anonymous tips to Danvers police.
“Moving our district’s communications plan forward included better access through smartphones,” said Superintendent Lisa Dana in a statement. “Stirling worked cooperatively with us to develop a mobile app that meets our needs. This resource will provide our community, especially parents, with on the go, updated information about our schools.”
The free app grew out of work Stirling did starting in 2012, to redesign the schools’ websites.
“It is refreshing to work with a district that embraces and places technology at the forefront,” said Thomas Stirling, the founder of Stirling Brandworks, in a statement. “Dr. Dana is forward thinking and responsive to change.”
As mobile use grows, Stirling said he expects more school districts to follow in Danvers’ footsteps.
Other organizations in town, including the Danvers Farmers Market and Danvers Community Access Television, also have mobile apps.
According to Dana, School Committee member Jeff Kay stressed the importance of taking a mobile-first approach to technology.
In an email, Kay said the app dovetails with an element in the district’s strategic plan about improving family and community engagement.
“We are always looking for ways to improve our real time communication to parents, students, staff and the community. Our latest data showed 90 percent of our high school students regularly use a smartphone. We wanted to have a way to reach them as part of their normal routines,” Kay said.
He said the goal was to also develop a platform that allowed the schools and the community to talk with one another.
“One nice feature of the app is a feedback section where anyone in the community can provide suggested improvements or positive comments about anything to do with the school system,” he said. “We can now get real time feedback on things like building conditions, school events, education curriculum, etc. … That can help us as a team react much more quickly and serve the students and community better.”