FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District released its own mobile app Thursday in an attempt to make information more accessible to parents and students.
The application, which can be downloaded on both iPhones and Android smartphones as well as tablets, allows users to do things such as view school news and updates, email teachers and check lunch account balance.
The app also allows users to log in to the PowerSchool system, which enables people to check grades, assignments and attendance.
Superintendent Pete Lewis called the app “one-stop shopping,” during a presentation earlier this week to the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce.
“From a parent’s standpoint, this is the best thing since sliced bread,” Lewis said. “From a kid’s standpoint it’s like, ‘Ah, man.’”
District public information officer Bill Bailey has been working to make the app available to parents since last spring. Bailey said a phone survey he did in May reached almost 7,000 parents and showed that 71 percent of them were interested in the use of a district mobile app.
Even with parent interest, Bailey still had to deal with the problem of figuring out how to pay for such a project. He got school board approval to seek funding and then approached the company Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo with the proposal.
Pogo agreed to sponsor the app by fully funding its creation with a $25,000 donation.
“It’s unprecedented for us,” Bailey said. “This wouldn’t be possible without them.”
The app lines up with the school board’s goal to increase connection between schools and teachers with parents and students, Bailey said. The district uses a number of methods to get information to parents, such as the district’s and schools’ websites, bulletins and handouts, but many parents would rather have the accessibility of an app than a paper bulletin sent home with their kids.
“That younger generation of parents, they want information pushed out to them,” Bailey said. “It’s using a mix of traditional and new media to communicate with all these parents.”
Bailey said the district recognizes not all parents want — or even have the capability — to get their school information from a mobile app, so all the district’s current means of communication will remain in place. The app won’t replace anything.
The app became available to the public on the Apple store and Android Marketplace on Thursday. It can be found in the store and marketplace by searching for “Fairbanks School District.”
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.