How Well Does This Web Site Work?
Virginia Beach City Public Schools enrolls 70,535 students and employs 5,900 teachers in 87 schools and specialty centers. Its Web site earned an Award of Excellence from the National Schools Public Relations Association in 2006.
The home page is welcoming and well structured, with clearly defined sections, and recent news headlines and the district address are displayed prominently in the middle of the page.
Each school page has a unique design while still maintaining a similar layout to the home page, balancing individual character with consistency.
The navigation menu is organized into clear, concise categories without unnecessary redundancy. It utilizes rollover popup menus that appear only when needed, conserving space.
While the effective navigation menu is maintained through most of the site, several key pages have drastically different layouts and lack any menu at all. Navigation could be improved if the same menu remained consistent from page to page.
The Search function is intuitively placed above the navigation menu at the top of the home page, and functions well. For example, users can easily narrow their search parameters from the entire site, to Policies and Regulations, or to School Board Minutes.
Interaction with the User
The Press Room page gathers content for anyone seeking to find out more about the district, with news releases, school board profiles, and contact information.
The prominent column on the home page titled "Your Favorite Pages" conveniently lists the most commonly sought links, and remains as a rollover popup heading at the top of most pages.
The Office of the Superintendent page offers photographs and contact information for the administrators, but it would be enhanced with biographical content instead of simply listing descriptions of the responsibilities of each position.
Extensive resources are available on the VBCPS Employees page, including upcoming staff development opportunities, forms, employee newsletters, and calendars.
There are no access provisions for disabled users.
School to Home Interaction
The No Child Left Behind link, rather than simply connecting to the federal Department of Education Web page, as is commonly true for other district sites, links instead to a page that explains the law and presents its specific impacts on Virginia Beach schools.
The "New to Virginia Beach?" page displays information useful to anyone new to the district, including resources for military families, immunization requirements and registration procedures.
The Online Parent Resource for Academic Achievement (OPRAA) is a valuable tool for parents of both elementary and secondary students, with forms, testing schedules, educational links and advice for choosing colleges.
A wealth of detailed contact information is available through the Contact Us page, including emergency and administration phone numbers, as well as e-mail and mailing addresses, fax and phone numbers, principal names and Web sites for every school in the district.
Use of Online Technology
The Distance Learning Program page allows students to take courses from home through the Web site and also facilitates classroom videoconferencing.
The School Data page includes a great deal of information displayed in graphic form, ranging from test scores and demographics to budget numbers and standards of learning.
The VBCPS Education Foundation page includes an online catalog of artwork done by district teachers, that is for sale to benefit the foundation.
Each of the district's academy programs has excellent video introductions, which include interviews of teachers and students describing their experiences, and recommendations for the types of students who should consider applying.
Parents can stay informed via the brilliant "VB Xtra" customizable subscription service, which allows them to receive regular e-mail newsletters for specific topics of their choice.
All news items and announcements are carefully dated, and the date appears in most page headings, demonstrating that the site is meticulously maintained.
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.