Oconto Falls schools get a new website

Analytics show nearly two-thirds of users access the site on their phones
By: 
Warren Bluhm
News Editor

The new Oconto Falls School District website streamlines the online experience for visitors, students and staff, the district’s technology chief told the school board Nov. 13.

Technology director Corey Jeffers mentioned the overhaul of ofpanthers.com during his report on his department’s activities keeping the district connected to the internet.

The new website went live earlier this month and has earned good grades so far, Jeffers said.

“One of the reasons for the new website was better responsiveness,” he said. “Our account integration is far better, announcement alerts are better, the directory improvements are good, and our analytics are much better, too.”

Because it’s a smaller site in the grand scheme of things, the Google search engine is a little slow to adopt to the change.

“Our previous website had about 1,800 pages on it; our current one has about 70,” Jeffers said. “It’s better to have fewer, because then there’s fewer places to find the things you actually need, but it takes a long time for Google to go back and crawl those sites and say, ‘Oh, this is the one you’re using now, not the one you’ve been using for the last six years,’ and then remove those.”

The analytics show that about 62% of visitors are accessing of panthers.com via a mobile device, about 36.5% are on a desktop or laptop, and 1.3% are using a tablet, he said.

“Most of the time our designs are meant to be looked at on a palm first, so they might be kind of weirdly stretched out at times on a really large screen because very few people are looking at it on a very large screen,” Jeffers said.

Recent technology department activity has included bringing in 600 new Chromebooks for students in grades two through five. The devices, designed solely for internet use, are usually replaced every four years but federal funding allowed the turnaround to happen more quickly, Jeffers said. Oconto Falls High School also got new staff laptops this fall.

A couple of incidents this fall proved the wisdom of installing more redundancy into the system, Jeffers said. The school board approved redundant firewalls about two years ago.

“Earlier this semester, one of those firewalls went down and then jumped to the other firewall, which was really helpful because our district would have been without internet for approximately seven hours that day.” Jeffers said. “We were out for four minutes.”

During the same month a crew working in Abrams accidentally cut a fiber optics line, he added.

“That would have impacted us, in fact it did impact us,” Jeffers said. “Right around the time it was cut, all of our internet traffic stopped. Luckily we ended up having a second line that comes in from a different location in state. That picked up, and honestly nobody even noticed.”

Without the redundancy, the district’s internet outage would have lasted for about 12 hours, he said.

The report was part of a tech-heavy agenda that also included demonstrations from two Washington Middle School VEX Robotics teams, who are building robots for competitions scheduled later this school year.

Thirty-one students are building a total of 15 competitive robots, adviser Anythony Grulkowski told the board. They saw demonstrations from Team Overload and Team Ava Cubed, the latter so named because it is comprised of three students named Ava.

wbluhm@newmedia-wi.com