Today I planned to take my kids up to Ready, Set, Learn at Tweedsmuir Elementary. Ready, Set, Learn is a provincial preschool orientation program for three-year-olds and their parents to begin connecting future students with the schools they will attend in Kindergarten.
Alas, I was led astray by an undated (and apparently stale) PDF – the only information I could find online – which said the program would start at 1:45pm. I discovered at 1:40 when I called the school to confirm that the start time was in fact 1pm and it was just then ending. A second look at the PDF made it clear that the dates didn’t match, and I figured out that it was an old file. I looked for a current version on the SD40 website but found nothing about the program.
As in the ‘programs of choice’ registration fiasco, in which I discovered that I am two years late to register my two-year-old for Early French Immersion or Montessori, the problem is fundamentally one of poor communication with parents. An ad in the Record and a few notices on corkboards around town just aren’t enough. For efficiency, convenience and best overall accessibility, information like this needs to be online, where Google and everyone who uses it can find it.
Take a moment and go look at our School District website:
It’s obvious that it’s been cobbled together by someone off the side of her desk with little to no support. I pity whoever it is who manages this page. It looks like it’s built either by hand-coding the HTML or with a clunky desktop program like FrontPage. Either way it’s got to be time-consuming to update and manage.
There’s just no excuse for a website like this anymore. There are lots of free, open-source content management systems all with free and low-cost templates to dress them up. Our website uses WordPress, which costs us nothing but web hosting fees. WordPress would be an unusual choice for a school district site, but as many businesses have found, it doesn’t have to be used for blogging. It can be used to help manage more conventional websites as well. Our WordPress template and all our plugins were free. If no one on staff has the skills to set it up, hire someone to set it up and train a staff person to maintain. If money is too tight even for that, hire a freaking intern. I bet half of NWSS could build a better website.
I’m picking on the school district today, but this problem is endemic to New Westminster institutions. Word-of-mouth is the primary source of information on how things work in this town. But when you’re relatively new here, or segueing into a new phase of life (in this case, parenting soon-to-be school-aged children) it can be almost impossible to find this stuff out in time.
Improving the way New Westminster represents itself online is a vital step to improving how we are perceived beyond our borders. It’s one of the reasons we at Tenth to the Fraser are putting so much of our time and energy into this project, and why we chose our tagline: Hyack the Web.
“Hyack” means “quickly, quickly” or “hurry up” in the Chinook language:
Hyak was a potent word-of-all-trades in the old Chinook Jargon. As an imperative verb, it meant hurry up or get a move on. As an adjective and adverb it was perhaps the most widely-known Chinook Jargon word on our west coast. Hyak! Quick!
Hurry up, New West – get online already. Make us proud.