Assignment: Education-Onalaska Using Social Media

With so many people using the Internet, the School District of Onalaska decided to survey the parents and guardians of their students this past fall to find out how... in this day and age... they would like to receive information.

"According to our survey," said Curt Rees, Northern Hills Elementary School principal, "about half of all the people in our community use Facebook and other social media avenues. So we thought this would be a great way to get information to them about what goes on in schools."

The Onalaska School District looked at examples of how other districts throughout the state were using social networking sites. At the end of January, they launched their own Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as a new blog on their web site.

"Just two years ago, it was quite a process to put together a school newsletter," said Rees. "Typing it up, printing it, taking it to the copy center, printing 300 copies, fold them up, bring them back to school, sort them out and then give them to each kid. Put them in the backpack and hopefully, after all that, moms and dads would be able to get them out of the backpack."

Now, by using social networking sites, parents can get important and accurate information without using their children as the middleman.

"Just knowing that kids don't always have the best facts about what's going on at school... 'Well, I think we have a reading night, but I'm not sure what day and time it is,'" said Rees. "So, if we can put those out on the web through these different avenues it's the best way to do it."

The information super-highway is also proving to be a cheaper way to do it.

"The thing about social media, for the most part, it's free... you know... to have a Facebook page... it's free," said Rees. "Rather than hiring a web designer, paying a hosting site that can go into the thousands of dollars. We've done that in the past, when that was the way that you did business."

But business is changing. And the Onalaska School District is changing along with its parents.

"A lot of these parents who have kids that are 5 to 10 years old they've almost always had the Internet in their adult lives, and this is the way they're used to communicating," said Rees.



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