It’s not like going from a Model T to a Chevy Volt, but it’s close.
Riverside-Brookfield High School now has a new, modern, up-to-date website. After about a year of planning, work and development the new site went live on Oct. 14, and the change of design comes with a change of address.
The new website address is www.rbhs208.net, replacing old 1990s era site at www.rbhs208.org, although the old website may stick around until the end of the school year to give teachers time to transfer their own information to the new site.
One look at the new website quickly shows the difference from the old text-based site. It’s like going from black-and-white television to flat-panel HD.
The new site is colorful, featuring rotating photos on the home page. Information is much easier to find, and the website is user-friendly and much easier to navigate. The new site also has a search feature which the old website lacked.
“There are multiple ways to find information,” said Principal Pamela Bylsma.
The new site has a content management system that makes it easy for school personnel to update. And, unlike the old site, one does not have to have any special skills to update the site.
“It’s not cumbersome or difficult to use if you have any kind if word processing skills or put together presentations,” Bylsma said.
The site can be updated quickly and can have live links, which the old site could not handle. Unlike the static old site, the new website is already filled with up-to-date information on upcoming events and meetings.
The new site has a dual navigation system and flyouts, giving users more opportunity to find what they are looking for.
The website even has two places where students or parents can report bullying, and parents can also access their students, grades and attendance records through the website.
Besides being much more user-friendly, the new website is much easier for school staff to work with.
“I felt that the website was not as robust as it could be,” Bylsma said. “It was very difficult to work with. It was really an old-fashioned kind of website where it was very difficult to manipulate.”
The new website was built cheaply, with RBHS faculty members Alicia Duell, Nick Gehl and Dan Mancoff doing much of the work.
The school spent $3,790 to create the site, Bylsma said. It bought a template from PowerIt, a Connecticut-based company that helps schools with web applications.
“We just bought a template,” Bylsma said. “We just bought the cheapest thing that they have.”
PowerIt will host the website but RBHS teachers did most of the work creating it. The recurring Web hosting fee will be less than $2,000 a year, according to Bylsma.
Duell, the department chair of Library and Instructional Technology is the webmaster and took the lead role in developing the site.
“She’s been so patient and creative and basically tenacious in getting it done,” Bylsma said. “This has been a labor of love on her part.”
So far public reaction seems favorable.
“We’re getting really positive feedback from parents and families that they’re finding it easier to locate information,” Bylsma said.
Teachers are also excited by the website, Bylsma said.
“People are excited, because they can make their sites more functional,” Bylsma said.
During an institute day in January teachers will be trained on the new website and they will begin to transfer their own web pages to the new site.
Community members also can suggest news items and announcements to put on the new website.
The transition to the new website is still a work in process.
“It takes a long time to build a website,” Bylsma said. “Not everything’s been transferred yet. Eventually the other site will be non-functional.”