The October 28 school board meeting for Watertown-Mayer might have been shorter than most, but covered a popular subject that many schools have been discussing: updating the website. Natasha Monsaas-Daly, Director of Learning and Technology, presented the subject to the board.

Monsaas-Daly has been working since July to update the website as a part of the rebranding process. The start was communicating with potential vendors, stakeholders, staff, and to highlight needs and wants that the public wanted. Around five vendors have been evaluated and demoed, and even offering a website “sandbox”, or essentially the opportunity to test the template. On Oct 28, she had a vendor vetted as part of this process: Blackboard.

“Based on feedback and district needs, Blackboard was the best solution for us to go with,” said Monsaas-Daly.

The survey had a huge factor in determining what website the school would end up choosing. One of the aspects the community wanted was a responsive design, meaning it would function on desktop or mobile. One of the current issues with the website is its lack of functionality on mobile devices, which can be frustrating for parents, staff, and students on the go. Blackboard will allow for better mobile use, whether or not someone is connected to wifi.

Blackboard will also streamline logging in. The hope is to make the website easier to use overall, no matter who is logging in at a given time. It’s also easier to customize, meaning it’s easier for the staff to keep the pages up to date. It even comes with a social media manager on the back end of the website, which would post to the social media platforms easier for staff as well. All in all, Blackboard will allow the school to do what they and the community think are the most important features.

It won’t be an immediate switch, of course. The approximate timeline will be about eight weeks, said Monsaas-Daly, possibly even faster depending on other projects. The costs are different depending on the year. The first part is to get it up and running. The initial cost with this is $5400, then it would be $1000 per year. This annual cost is less than the current website, according to Monsaas-Daly.

And everything will be done in steps leading up to other features. For example, though the website itself will be hopefully up and running in the next eight weeks, it will take a bit of time to add other features like mobile functionality. Though not long, according to Monsaas-Daly, each function will be done step by step in order to keep things organized.

Right now, though, just making the website is the first step.

“There’s a significant amount of housecleaning that needs to happen on our current website,” said Ron Wilke, superintendent. “We can archive just to be safe, but honestly in some areas it might easier to start from scratch.”

The school is going for a “less is more” approach with the clean up. Monsaas-Daly has been working with a committee of staff, stakeholders, and more in order to look at “what works, what we can drop, and what we need to create.” The hope is to help the community find exactly what they’re looking for right away instead of jumping from tab to tab. Jeff Jackson, board member, proposed a request system that would go to one person, for example if someone is looking for a specific person to speak to about a subject. Monsaas-Daly responded that could be a possibility moving forward.

In the end, the board unanimously approved the Blackboard contract.

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