The Parent Institute has issued a report for schools and districts that focuses on the importance of school websites in keeping parents and community leaders informed.

“It’s neither hard nor expensive to make your site one of the most helpful sources of information about your school,” according to the report. “With very little time and expense, you’ll see increased school support from parents and the community – and spend less time answering the same questions over and over again, time that can be better focused on improving student achievement.”

The report lists several guidelines that school websites should adhere to including:

  • Parents and families of current or prospective students are the primary audience.
  • School address and phone number are prominently displayed on the homepage.
  • An easy-to-find e-mail link is on the homepage.
  • Make sure that e-mail sent to school officials always is answered within 24 hours.
  • A link is provided to frequently asked questions.
  • Information is updated daily.
  • Information is available in all languages.
  • Users are encouraged to sign up for e-mails and Twitter announcements.
  • The website is visually pleasing.
  • The website is a team effort.

Up-to-date items include:

  • school calendar
  • lunch menu
  • classroom supply lists
  • required forms

Recommended items no more than two clicks away from homepage include:

  • school handbook
  • list of key administrators
  • list of teachers
  • practical tips for parents

Mistakes to avoid include:

  • A school website shouldn’t be designed for a specific browser.
  • Out-of-date information shouldn’t linger on the website.

School and district leaders should analyze their websites regularly to make sure the information is correct and presents content in a timely, professional manner.