Palisade High School hopes smartphone app will help people get message

Between letters, emails, website postings and online notifications in District 51’s Parent Bridge system, some parents still weren’t getting the message.

Palisade High School counselor Jonathan Burke said for years he has heard parents say they missed a deadline or went uninformed about school events because one mode of communication or another went unread or unseen. Burke hopes to remedy that problem with the launch this month of a Palisade High application, or “app,” for smartphones.

“The research we looked into showed a 7 percent read rate with mass email but things that go to people’s phones have a 95 percent read rate. Parents say (the app) is convenient because the information pops into their hands,” Burke said.

Parents, students, staff and anyone else can download the app for free in the Google Play or iPhone App Store markets. The app is compatible with most smartphones and includes features such as the school’s fight song, calendar postings and a school map.

The app automatically updates users with information about the school, such as when a scholarship application should be turned in, or when the next football game starts.

Burke said the app is particularly useful in emergency situations, when the school can update parents immediately about lock-downs or hazardous events. Burke said rumors ran wild last year during a practice lock-down at the school.

“All kinds of rumors were out there, everything from roaming dogs in the building to gangs of ninjas, because kids had been texting their parents” during the practice, Burke said. With the app, “Parents can sort through fact and rumor quickly.”

The high school purchased and licensed the app from Smart Apps Grand Junction, a local business owned by former teacher Dottie Sheader. Sheader markets apps primarily to schools and can customize them to fit a school or other client’s needs. She said she is in talks to launch an app for Fruita Monument High School early next year.

“This is another way to reach people. Phones are within reach 24 hours a day, so it’s a way to increase that two-way communication,” Sheader said.

The app cost less than $1,000 to develop this year, an amount that was paid by a grant Palisade received from the state, Burke said. Maintenance of the app will be funded by interactive advertisements from local businesses on the app. Advertisers so far include Benge’s, Carniceria Sonora, Clark’s Family Orchards, Diorio’s Pizza of Palisade, FCI Constructors, Girlfriends, Hidden Beauty Salon, Home Style Bakery, Josten’s, The Lavender Lady & Friends, Palisade Dental Clinic, Palisade Pharmacy, Speedy’s Diner and Sunshine Laundromat.

For parents who are less technology literate, Burke said not to worry.

“We won’t stop other modes of communication, we’re just reaching out in another way,” he said. “There are so many modes of communication, it’s hard to pick one mode or a best mode.”


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