St. Tammany schools introduce mobile app to help keep parents engaged with their children's education _lowres

St. Tammany Parish Schools has a new app for smartphone users to stay informed.

The note pinned to the shirt is a thing of the past.

These days, the St. Tammany Parish School System deploys a broad array of tools in its efforts to keep parents informed and engaged in their children’s education, including robocalls and online posts. On Thursday, the system rolled out another: a mobile app on both Apple and Android platforms.

The app, Superintendent Trey Folse said, should help the school system reach families that may lack a home computer but have at least one mobile phone with Internet access.

“A lot of people have computers in their home, but not everybody,” he said.

School officials have been working on the project for more than a year, Folse said. In November, after evaluating several proposals, the system signed a $22,200 contract with ParentLink, a company that specializes in mobile apps for school districts.

Within the app, parents can find schools in their area by using their phone’s GPS location, or they can manually select the schools they are interested in.

“We will do push notifications for hurricanes, snow days, lockdowns, that sort of thing,” Folse said, adding that notifications can be school-specific or for the entire system.

At one tab, parents can log in and check their child’s grades and attendance records. But spokeswoman Meredith Mendez said the app does not store any student or employee information. Instead it provides temporary access to the secure server where information is stored.

That could be a significant point in St. Tammany, where anger has flared over new Common Core academic standards and the attendant collection of student data.

The app also has school and teacher contact information, lunch menus, school calendars and access to the school system’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds.

Folse said he looked at the apps for other school systems around the country and was happy with the one ParentLink offered to St. Tammany.

“I liked the layout. They were able to get a lot of information in there, and it was easy to navigate, too,” he said.

School is one place where the app cannot be used. The district still prohibits students from using cellphones on campus, Folse said. And even though that policy is evolving, the app isn’t really a step toward loosening it, he said.

Ultimately the app is more for parents than students — “a step in communication and trying to keep people informed,” Folse said.

Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.