Abilene USD 435 patrons now can keep up on district happenings through a new mobile application. The free app launched this summer, following the debut of a new district website.

Patrons can get the app by visiting the website, abileneschools.org., find the “Get Connected” link on the homepage and follow the instructions to download it on a mobile device using the app store or Google Play for android phones. Once connected, people can select yes to receive push notifications from the district.

The app allows students, parents, teachers and other interested individuals the ability to receive alerts, quick access to school information and school news all on a mobile device.

During the July school board meeting, USD 435 Tech Coordinator Mike Liby explained the decision was made last year to switch website hosting companies to save money. The decision was easy after officials learned the new site would be less expensive and could be pooled with School Messenger, a notification program the district already was using.

He said the website had to be finished first before they could launch the app. “The web and the app talk to each other so it was important to have the web done first and then we went to the app,” Liby said.

Abilene High School student Jaden Walters, the new web/app master, said the new and improved website offers better navigation and makes it “easier to get to things.” “The website has the same feel and same layout, but it feels a little different,” she said. “It’ll adjust to your iPad screen, laptop or mobile phone.”

The website also shows postings on the Abilene Public Schools USD 435 Facebook page and Abilene School tweets on a Twitter feed.

Liby said the idea is to gather all sources of information and put it in one location. “We really like this website. We can tie all those different avenues of information and get it out to the public,” he said.

New app

Walters said the app is directed to the public, but specifically to parents of USD 435 students. “It is a quick, easy way to get simple information,” Walters said. “One of the best features is notifications. If you go to settings, the app gives you the option to set it up right away to get notifications.”

For instance, if a parent has a student attending Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary, the parent can choose to get only notifications for Eisenhower. “The same thing goes for all sports and activities, primarily at the high school and middle school,” Walters said.

“The push notifications is what sold me,” Liby explained, particularly when he learned the app could be tied to School Messenger. “People go to a website when they’re new, when they want to know about you, know where you’re at or get in contact with you. On their mobile device, they want push notifications — an instant blurb about a weather front moving in, whether it’s going to rain in two hours…everyone wants little snippets of information.”

When setting up their iPads this year, students will select push notifications to receive information about things they’re involved in.

The app not only gets information out to students and parents, but it’s also something grandparents or other members of the community can use.

Currently, only administrators are able to “push out” information, Liby said.

Assistant Superintendent Chris Cooper said eventually that may extend beyond administrators, but right now they’re the only ones with administrative control to push a notification.

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