In an ideal world, every student would be in their seats and ready to learn when the bell rings. But any seasoned teacher knows this is rarely the case—some students may be late, absent, or simply distracted. And then there are extreme circumstances that prevent all students from making it to class, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Crises like the coronavirus situation disrupt the normal education process. Students are forced to stay at home and miss class—losing out on the important knowledge teachers work hard to share effectively.
But thanks to technology, teachers and your school administrators have a great option for reaching students (and parents) beyond your campus: a school website. This education-friendly option can function as both a crisis communication tool and learning management system—you can keep students up to date about the situation and provide them with teacher-facilitated homeschooling.
Anyone on your education team can build a school website with WordPress, a website creation tool and content management system that powers an approximate 35% of all websites. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about these types of tools—using WordPress is simple, even if you’re a nontechnical person. Keep reading to explore school website benefits and WordPress features you can employ to keep the learning process going.
Benefits of a School Website
Creating or updating a school website provides a number of benefits for students and parents alike. Here are a few benefits that are especially relevant during a crisis:
Give parents peace of mind.
Alongside political leaders, educators play their own part in crisis management. Parents who are accustomed to having their kids at school most of the day can become anxious when sending kids to school is no longer an option—this applies to both working and stay-at-home parents. A school website that provides crisis communication updates and online classes can help assuage their education concerns.
Provide students with a sense of normalcy.
Most kids claim to dislike (read: hate) school, but many take on a different perspective in turbulent times. Being forced to stay at home, especially when they have to practice social distancing and miss out on important events, can make kids as anxious as their parents. A combination of communicating with friends and participating in an online classroom can positively influence their state of mind.
Ensure students don’t get behind.
Missing school for a day or two may not be a big deal, but any extended absence is troubling—missing even 18 days out of the school year negatively affects a student’s academic performance. A school website can help students stay busy and continue their academic progression so they can hit the ground running once things go back to normal.
Features for Online Learning
Below we walk through several features individually to ensure you understand their relevance, but just know that you can often use these features in conjunction with one another to provide a more dynamic experience for students.
As the name implies, your news page covers just that. You may use the page to keep parents updated on school events (e.g., talent shows, plays, field days, etc.), local developments that impact the school or students, school closures due to weather, construction that affects pick-up and drop-off locations, school policy changes, and more.
Of course, your news page can also serve as a crisis communication hub for worried parents during an emergency or disaster. You can share guidance links and materials from governmental agencies like the CDC, National Weather Service, and others relevant to the current situation. While parents may already be looking to these agencies for general guidance, they will likely turn to you to learn how your school, specifically, is handling crisis management regarding their children.
Similar to the news page, the calendar can inform the community about upcoming school events (don’t forget student birthdays!), but the calendar feature offers greater interactivity.
You can create custom calendars for different categories like sports, drama, music, debate, and so on. With the right setup, you can even enable visitors to register for events online or sign up for email reminders about their chosen interest area. For example, a parent with lots of school spirt may want to stay informed about all the upcoming sporting events so they don’t miss a single game!
Want to tell your school’s story? Add a school blog, which you can use for a wide range of use cases:
Expand upon updates you shared on your news page.
To avoid overwhelming visitors with too much information, your news page will likely only include snippets of information. You can give more info on each update on your blog. For example, you may share news that the school will be closing on a specific day; you can then link that update to your blog, where you provide detailed reasoning for the closure and whether the closure might be extended.
Write wrap-ups of school events like sports games and plays.
What happened at the last football game or drama production? Share the story on your blog. You can even get students involved by interviewing team members and cast members. Proud parents are sure to share posts where their kids are quoted.
Create student spotlights.
Did a student win a school swimming or chess competition? Or does a student in the gardening club want to get the word out about being more eco-friendly? Whatever the interest area or success, your blog provides an outlet for students to shine.
Share non-school student highlights.
Students have lives outside of school, but that doesn’t mean their non-academic accomplishments can’t be shared with their peers and the community on the school blog. For example, a student may have won a community award your school wants to praise. Or perhaps a student performed CPR on the victim of an accident and helped keep them alive until first responders showed up—that’s certainly a story worth sharing!
Whatever the story, a school blog can help parents, students, and educators stay connected to one another and the community.
Get visual! Your school website doesn’t have to be a wall of text. Make school stories more dynamic with photos. For example, you may include a wrap-up blog post of a drama club play. Reading about the play is great, but linking to an image gallery of students dressed up on stage can add dramatic flair to the story and help people who didn’t attend better visualize the experience. This may even motivate them to attend the next play.
For even more engaging content, try embedding videos. You can really bring that last football game to life with this medium. Community members who attended the game can relive the most exciting moments—from outstanding plays to the winning touchdown. Plus, parents who couldn’t attend because of work or other obligations get the opportunity to see their kids in action.
Videos also provide a great way for teachers and school administrators to connect and empathize with parents and students. For example, during a crisis that forces schools to close, teachers can record themselves recalling fun memories from the school year so far. This shows how educators are also impacted by the situation, and helps strengthen the teacher-parent-student relationship.
Parents and other community members sometime need to contact administrators or teachers. Calling the school and being routed by busy staff members can be time-consume for all involved. You can make this process more convenient by including a staff directory on your school website that includes relevant contact information, staff photos, and even profiles. Parents can use the directory to contact and learn more about the hard-working people who educate their children.
Online Forms & Document Management
Teachers and administrators know full well how prevalent documentation is within the school. Oftentimes, you need to share certain documents with parents to keep them informed, which you can do through your school website.
The student handbook is a common document parents would be interested in. You can upload it and share the link with parents to download. The same process applies to sporting schedules, lunch menus, flyers, and so on.
Learning Management System
Last, but certainly not least, is the ability to teach students online. No online classroom is complete without a learning management system (LMS)—it’s how you conduct online classes. Depending on the website theme you select, you may need an additional plugin to suit your school’s specific LMS needs.
Whether you get the LMS capability from a theme or plugin, it typically enables you to:
- Set up and manage multiple online courses.
- Communicate with students about coursework.
- Develop and share lessons with students.
- Create quizzes, tests, and other assessment tools.
- Give students a way to submit coursework for teacher review.
Make your school website an engaging space for students and parents alike with Yahoo WordPress Hosting, the easy-to-use website builder. This WordPress host option makes website setup simple. Plus, customization is a cinch with intuitive WordPress design tools. Even nontechnical people can put together a school website that informs and educates in very little time. In times of crisis, the ability to quickly update parents and students is crucial. Start your school website today.