The Peabody Public Schools have a new look for anyone online, and it's more than just George Peabody's face looking back at you.
The district has revamped its website, along with individual sites for schools, offering a sleeker, more uniform and more interactive resource for parents, students and staff. The final product, as it stands now, was published publicly on Monday.
One of the main features is that now teachers can easily create classroom and interactive homework pages on the server and parents and students can create an account, sign in and check their grades online.
Superintendent Joe Mastrocola said his goal is to utilize the website more as an instructional tool, integrating learning, technology and access for students together.
He noted that some users may be disoriented at first by the new layout, which has a different calendar setup and doesn't link directly from the home page to certain departments, for example.
"It's all there, it's just a matter of spending some time navigating it," he said.
media specialist and librarian Sudi Smoller walked School Committee members through the new design Tuesday night, explaining all the bells and whistles.
"Technology is wonderful when it works," Smoller quipped, encountering a momentary snag as she tried to figure out how to turn the unfamiliar projector on to show off the website.
"There's a lot more uniformity than before...we are all one and that's not what it looked like before," she said, referring to the eclectic mix of styles that existed throughout old district pages and those for each of the city's eight schools. "Hopefully it will be easier to navigate."
The new layout contains a "channel bar" or range of categories across the top of the site and each one has a drop down menu with several subcategories. As mentioned, before, the city's namesake appears above next to a window of rotating pictures of students and school events. Above the pictures is another drop down bar to navigate to individual schools.
"Excellent. It looks so much better than it did in the past," said School Committee member Tom Rossignoll, adding that having consistent and up-to-date information is critical for all the schools.
As already mentioned, a big piece of the redesign was also allowing broader internal administrative access to the site so teachers, for example, could easily create their own classroom pages and share resources with parents and students, along with colleagues.
"This is the leap we have made that teachers have access to the server and students have access to what teachers want to put out there," Smoller said.
Prior to the redesign, some teachers did create their own pages, but they were not necessarily hosted on the district website.
Another important feature is integration of RSS feeds with ' own website. PAT posts a community calendar and news section online and now school lunch menus, calendar events and other news headlines will directly feed into the PAT site.
Smoller said the district could also easily incorporate an online registration form for users to sign up for email alerts.
There is a payment portal on the site, utilizing the existing system at , but for now it is only set up for donations to the . Asked whether that use could be expanded to allow parents to pay bus or athletics fees online, Smoller replied that there's nothing specific planned for now, but she's "looking forward to the conversations about pushing out the use of the website to its fullest potential."
Smoller, Network and Technology Manager Jamie Bent and School Business Manager Dave Keniston worked on the new website, which is powered by Schoolwires, over the summer.