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Schools offer new info app for phones, tablets

July 24, 2013 - As a way of keeping parents connected with Oxford Community Schools, OCS has created a new free "Oxford Community Schools App" for smartphone and tablet users to download.

"It's flat out just communication with parents. Anything we can do to make it easier for our parents either to find information, find who they're looking for or find schedules, said Tim Throne, executive director of Strategic Initiatives & Technology. "We're in the customer service business. Education is a service, so we've got to try to continually make our products and the services we deliver better and better and easier to use or get information."

The app allows users access to the latest news on the districts website and OCS Facebook page, as well as each individual school, school event calendar, Fine Arts Center's calendar and lunch menus. The app also has a district directory where users can type in a persons name and it will bring up their school and their e-mail address.

"We're going to update it so it also gives the school's phone number," said Debbie Fox, OCS technology consultant.

There is also a lunch payment app that lets users make deposits for lunches as well as pay for childcare after school, yearbook, prom tickets and Suzuki Strings. The powerschool app, which is part of the OCS App is a great tool that lets parents log in and see their child's grades, attendance, school bulletins, teachers comments, homework assignments and much more.

"During school year (usage) is crazy high," Throne said. "Sixty, seventy, eighty percent of families are logging in."

Lastly there is a button for athletics which will give the game schedules and allow users to map the directions right to their phone, as well as get game scores and highlights from coaches.

"We will also be adding Haiku and (Superintendent) Dr. William Skilling's Twitter account," noted Fox.

Throne said they did have an app prior to this one, but it was what he called a "standalone app"

"Whatever you wanted to change you had to change just with that app," he explained. "This (new) one gives more real-time data and as things change we want it automatically changed in the app."

"We don't have time to have someone responsible just for updating an app. When you're supporting 250 applications, the last thing you want to do is say 'OK we're going to throw another thing out here so as soon as something changes I've got to change it on Facebook, change it on the district web page and change it on the app," Throne continued. "We just want to change it in one place and have a ripple effect to all the other things."

Throne said they wanted an app that gave users the benefit of going other places. Instead of having to go three places to find information, now they only have to go to one.

"If parents have ideas for things we haven't thought about, or information they're constantly trying to get that they think would be a good idea to add to our app contact me (Tim.Throne@Oxfordschools.org, 248-969-5114) or Debbie.Fox@oxfordschools.org, 248-9695191," Throne said. "If it's something we can do, we'll certainly add it to it and make it available."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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