Athol-Royalston School website to see upgrades


For the Athol Daily News
Published: 2/3/2023 1:41:10 PM
Modified: 2/3/2023 1:40:38 PM

ATHOL – The Athol Royalston Regional School District is in the midst of revamping one of the most important tools for communicating with students, families and the community.

The decision to reconstruct the district’s website was a result of user feedback, as well as Superintendent Matt Ehrenworth’s own assessment.

“It was both. There had previously been surveys sent out to the families about our communication, and the website was identified as a tremendous issue,” Ehrenworth said. “It’s not easily navigated. It’s not clear. It’s just kind of antiquated. And it’s not being used effectively, either. I think one compounds the other.

“When you have a site that’s difficult to use or difficult to post things to, then people stop using it properly, and then it just kind of falls by the wayside.”

Ehrenworth said work on the new site is well under way.

“We have live mock-ups that are already developed for both the district and for the schools,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to launch the actual website sometime between the time we return from February break and before we leave for April break.”

Asked if there was one glaring problem that stood out, the superintendent said, “It’s very low-tech. When you click on something, it’s mainly PDFs that are just posted on the site. You click and then the PDF just pops up. It’s not linking all of our communications and it doesn’t have any opportunity for families to communicate back to the district, whether it’s through forms, or whether it’s through open sessions.”

Ehrenworth said he wants users to be able to link to the agencies and organizations that routinely work with the district on a variety of issues and initiatives.

“The other thing I really want to have is a page dedicated to all of our partners; like Valuing our Children, you can get to the Y, you can see all of the different services we have, all the different partners we have,” Ehrenworth said. “I want everything to be connected so that the district has something like one-stop shopping.”

In addition to being more interactive, he said the site also comes with a smartphone app.

“So our families will be able to download the app onto their phones, whether it’s Apple or Android,” he said. “For example, they can select getting calendar alerts from the different schools, they can do district-wide alerts. There’s some opportunity for us to even do ‘push messages’; you’ll get an alert from one of your apps that says ‘so-and-so contacted you on Facebook.’ So, it will have the ability as well so that the district, if people have the app on the phone, the district can push out messages.”

Ehrenworth did say one thing that won’t change is the ability to link to any one of the district’s four schools. Each school, he explained, will have its own website.

“Hopefully, each school will be able to individualize – not like our current site. It’s almost like when you click on the schools on our current site, other than taking you to the schools’ Facebook pages – those are all different – but when you click on the school links, all it is just the same information. All it does is change the people on the site.”

According to Ehrenworth, the district has contracted with Interactive Educational Services, headquartered in Bakersfield, California, to host the website. Despite being hosted offsite, content will be controlled within the district.

“They’ll host it,” he said. “However, all administrative privileges, updating the website, making any changes – that’s all internal. So, it’s not like we have to call them to add something to the website. In fact, I’m getting training for the principals on Wednesday (Feb. 2) at our …principals meeting. That will be their first training.”

Revamping the website is one of the goals Ehrenworth set for the district upon becoming superintendent last year.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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