The Tolland Public School District includes 3,142 students and 217 teachers and serves a town with a population of 14,500 located 20 miles northeast of Hartford. The site has been designed and is continually updated by high school students as an ongoing computer project. It was submitted by a supervising teacher.
The design of the various schools' pages are dramatically different from one another. Consistent design features from page to page would give the district Web site more coherence.
The home page design could be more distinctive, has a large amount of blank space, and offers little textual information other than hotlinks.
Despite its flaws, the home page is a good start, with a professional layout and well-organized, clearly defined, intuitively placed sections. The district should build upon this foundation and create character by adding more content and enlivening the visual appeal with distinctive fonts, colors, graphics or multimedia.
The navigation menu bar at the top of the home page is in a good location but needs to have more relevant categories, such as academics or parent resources. The menu could be a great tool to use consistently on every page, but it is not found anywhere else. While each school's home page has its own menu, nearly every district page lacks a navigation menu of any kind.
Navigation could be made much more efficient for the user with the addition of a search function on the home page, the board policies page, or any of the school pages. The high school page does include a Google search tool, but this is for general Web searching, so it is of limited use for accessing information on the district site.
Interaction with the User
The high school Art Department page is particularly well done. It includes quality photos of student artwork from each course level and interviews with teachers and students about the art program.
The Superintendent's Office tab in the navigation menu includes almost entirely unrelated categories, such as driving directions, technology services and adult education.
There are no access provisions for disabled users.
Many important documents, including school improvement plans, budgets, annual reports from schools and committees, and the Connecticut Department of Education profile of the district, are immediately available to the user directly from the home page.
Birch Grove Primary School's page prominently lists the required school supplies, links to each teacher's Web site, and curriculum descriptions for each grade level.
The radon testing results for each school building are also available on the home page, but the forms simply list numbers and do not provide explanations of their meaning.
The curriculum page is informative, clearly describing the learning expectations for each grade level and academic subject in the district.
Use of Web Technology
The middle school's page includes a school store link where students can place orders online and pick up their items at school the next day.
There are few photos on most of the pages, and many of those that are included-such as the prominent montage displayed on the home page-are of a consistently low quality.
The Human Resources Department includes an online application utility through which applicants can fill out a profile form and directly apply online for any open position.
Most information presented is up-to-date, and recent news items are well placed in the middle of the home page.
The district is missing an opportunity to highlight its recently constructed high school, as the "New High School" page is difficult to find, has architectural images that are too small to be understood, and although the school is now in use, only includes photos from the earliest stage of construction.
Kurt O. Dyrli is a contributing writer for District Administration. To be considered for a district site review, contact Judy Hartnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.