Columbia Public Schools' websites to be redesigned

Thursday, March 20, 2014 | 4:32 p.m. CDT; updated 10:51 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 20, 2014

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools' website — which school board member Darin Preis called "a decade behind" — will be revamped this summer.

The Columbia School Board voted Thursday to approve a bid to redesign the district's websites from Schoolwires, a K-12 school website design company. The board unanimously accepted a $21,500 bid from the company.

"There are all kinds of challenges with our current structure," Preis said. "It's been sort of pieced together over the years.".

The redesign will provide every school with templates, creating common content found in the same place for each school.

Although the district does not have an employee whose position specifically focuses on updating the website, the new format will make it easier for district staff members to add content to their site and for parents to find important content.

Preis said the board plans for Schoolwires to begin work as soon as possible because the application period for a government discount on technology ends in May.

The district's websites will also get a new domain name: The new domain will be launched under the new URL address over the summer in coordination with the redesign.

" just rolls off the tongue," board member Jonathan Sessions said jokingly, referring to the current URL.

The board also approved a bid to improve the Internet connection at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School and connect the school's computers to the district's fiber network.

Two Mile Prairie has an Internet connection through CenturyLink, providing 100 MB in Internet speed. Being connected to the district's fiber network, the new connection speed will increase to 10 GB, which is equivalent to 10,240 MB.

The new connection will require a non-recurring cost of $35,000 provided by bond money and a monthly recurring cost of $3,300 provided by Technology Services operating budget. A reimbursement will return $1,700 of that monthly fee to the district.

Other school board decisions

Middle school updates

Middle schools throughout the district will have seven periods throughout the school day next school year.

The scheduling change will make the length of all core and elective classes the same amount of time: 50 minutes. The advisory class period, similar to a home room, that begins each students day will continue to be 18 minutes long.

Currently, core classes are 59 minutes long and elective courses are 48 minutes long.

"That discrepancy was one thing that we targeted that we wanted to be sure to try to improve on," Jeff Beiswinger, Gentry Middle School principal, said.

The new schedule will allow for common passing times throughout the morning and afternoon. The only time there will be staggered passing times is during the lunch hour.

The schedule change still does not allocate a set time during the day for elective teachers to plan and collaborate like core teachers do. Beiswinger said the schools will provide one day a month for elective teachers to meet, and the schools will provide substitute teachers for those days. 

Blues in the Schools

The board unanimously voted to send nine grant requests for all 19 elementary schools to the Missouri Arts Council.

The grants would provide half the funds needed to hold the Blues in the Schools program in every elementary school. The Blues Foundation would provide the other half of the required funds.

The Blues in the Schools program offers hour-long assemblies and all-day workshops with blues musician T.J. Wheeler during the summer school session. Students and their parents are also invited to attend one of Wheeler's public performances.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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