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Hey, parents! Mitchell School District has a new website and mobile app

Upgrade aims to improve communication, engagement between district, patrons, officials say

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A new and improved mobile app from the Mitchell School District is expected to improve communciation between school officials and district patrons.
Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — When it comes to juggling class schedules, athletic and activities practices and changes to the day-to-day routine at the Mitchell School District, communication between district leaders and patrons is crucial to ensuring the school days run smoothly.

Now, thanks to an upgraded district website and the introduction to a new and improved district mobile app, that communication should flow smoother than ever, according to officials with the Mitchell School District.

“Nowadays, everybody has a mobile phone, and they’re out and about and on the go,” said Levi Hohn, director of technology for the Mitchell School District. “It was just something we needed. We had some planning put in place ahead of time and we developed a roadmap on where we wanted to go, the content we wanted to display and how we wanted to display it.”

The new website replaces the former iteration that could be found at www.themitchellkernels.com. The former website has been scrapped in favor of the new, more modern-looking site at www.mitchell.k12.sd.us. It features a new streamlined appearance with better access to information and a livestream of news and announcements while still providing access to the features users have come to expect over the years.

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Along with a new mobile app, the Mitchell School District introduced its new website earlier this summer.
Mitchell School District Website Screenshot

The website, which has been running since earlier this summer, improves both the form and function of the site and its ability to get information out to the public, Hohn said.

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“We wanted a better way to express the school culture and what’s happening and what’s going on. The website and the app are both very mobile-friendly, and we wanted to make it something easy for parents, students and community members to know what’s going on with the Mitchell School District,” Hohn said. “Whether that be staff contact information, upcoming events or activities, the lunch and breakfast menus or even school supply lists.”

The site includes a news section as well as a live feed that simulates the look and feel of social media. It is here that students, parents and staff can keep up-to-date on announcements approved directly by school officials.

It provides a secure spot to receive quick, regularly updated information from the district. This feature allows students who may not otherwise have access to social media to keep up to speed with schedule changes or other important announcements.

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The new Mitchell School District website and mobile app both feature a live stream feed of news and announcement from district officials.
Mitchell School District Website Screenshot

“I’m excited about the live feed,” Hohn said. “It’s versatile. Some folks don’t allow their children to access social media, and this is the best of both worlds. If they’re not on social media, they can still get our information. That to me is really nice.”

The functionality of the new website is reflected in the mobile app, which is available for both Android and Apple devices through Google Play or the Apple Store. Links to both versions of the app can be found on the new website.

The new mobile app replaces a previous version that was not as richly developed or flexible, Hohn said.

“We did have one before but it was not as well-developed. It was missing some of the features like the live feed, and the calendar and events section was a little more difficult, a little more clumsy, whereas this one is a little more streamlined and modern. It’s easier to work with for our staff and students,” Hohn said.

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The new mobile app from the Mitchell School District, which is designed to better connect district patrons with official information from the district, if available for both Android and Apple devices.
Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic

Ease of use is a big factor in the effectiveness of digital communication, Hohn said. The easier technology is to use, the more people are likely to use it, and that extends to behind-the-scenes features. The days of someone needing to be an IT expert to implement features on a website are fading away, and the new website will allow teachers and students easier access to putting their own content online.

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“On the backend, a person doesn’t need to be a web designer or an expert in HTML. We can step it out with permission levels if we want to get students involved,” Hohn said. “For example, the high school journalism class. They have some great stories and great content, and they can write content and we can approve that, or a teacher can approve that. The big thing is kids can be involved.”

The new technology will get its real test when the new school year starts on Aug. 17, but school officials have been running the occasional test to see how effective the system is at doing what it’s supposed to do. So far, the website and mobile app are living up to expectations.

Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, said constantly-changing technology can be frustrating for users, but these new systems seem to avoid the usual pitfalls.

“I’m one of those people where if I get used to a certain technology like email, everytime the company changes it even slightly, I spend a week getting mad. I always have trouble with change,” Graves said. “This was an exception to that. I immediately took to the new website and new information.”

Graves said he has sent out test messages through the live feed feature and found it easier to navigate and operate. That will make for smoother operations with announcing class cancellations for weather or other information that needs to get out to students, staff and parents quickly.

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The new Mitchell School District mobile app is now available on Google Play for Android and the Apple Store of Apple devices.
Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic

The first step on the way to the 2022-23 school year will be the official Back to School Day on Aug. 3, where students will get their class schedules, have their pictures taken and be assigned a locker should they request one. Also in the leadup to the first day of school will be a marketing campaign that will send emails and texts out to parents informing them of the new website and mobile app and how to best utilize them to stay informed on district news.

Hohn said he has heard positive feedback from district staff, and he and Graves hope other district patrons will find the upgrades an improvement over the previous system.

Communication is crucial to a smooth-running school system, Graves said, and the website and mobile app should be a great tool to keep everyone on the same page.

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Class schedules to be handed out, lockers to be assigned

“I’m hopeful that all the different people in our district will become increasingly communicative about what is going on because (this new system) makes it easier and allows us to do it more professionally. I’m looking forward to it,” Graves said.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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