It’s Freezing in Alberta - School Buses Included.
It’s -43°C with the wind in Edmonton today.
It’s even colder here than it is in my hometown of Yellowknife - which is:
- Located next to the Arctic Circle,
- Only accessible by taking an ice road or plane in the winter,
- Where a polar bear would thrive.
So, with all the freezing cold temperatures this week in Alberta, I thought it would be fun to write a post on using your school division website for inclement weather communication. Every school division faces this task at some point during the season, so let’s talk about some best practices.
If you’re interested in testing your division or school online weather communication, start by answering the questions below:
- Is there an inclement weather notice on the home page of your division website?
- If yes, is your notice date stamped?
- Are your division’s transportation statuses (delays, cancellations) easily accessible from the home page?
- Are there inclement weather notices on the home pages of your school websites?
- Are transportation statuses easily accessible from the home pages of your school websites?
- Does your division have a system or grid to show transportation statuses easily?
I searched out 10 Alberta school divisions, and the overall data looks like this:
|Inclement weather notice on the home page of division website||6/10|
|Notice is date stamped||5/10|
|Division transportation status accessible from home page||5/10|
|Inclement weather notices on home pages of school websites||3/10|
|Transportation status’ accessible from home pages of school websites||3/10|
|System or grid showing transportation delays & cancellations - that is easy to search and understand||3/10|
So, what can you do to make your inclement weather communication more effective?
Make it a Headline
Inclement weather should be first news they see
School closures and transportation concerns are important topics for parents during extreme weather, so remember notices should be the most current and the most visible!
Keep the headline simple and obvious
The main news story on the EIPS home page is currently labeled ‘Schools Open, Buses Not Running’. What I love about this title, is that it clearly conveys an important message - no fancy words and right off the bat you know that buses are cancelled and schools are open.
Date stamp your news
Why is this important? Your audiences need to be able to trust your website for current information. By dating the notice, visitors will know that it’s today’s information, not leftovers from yesterday!
Feature Bussing Communications on your Home Page
Bus statuses should be available from the division home page. Wondering why is this important?
The 3rd most visited section on school division websites is the transportation page.
This means families and staff are visiting your website to find bussing information as quickly and easily as possible - so help them out with a Bus Status link that’s easy to find!
Nifty facts about inclement weather and websites:
School division website traffic increases: 600% - 1300%
School website traffic increases: 200% - 300%
Transportation/Bus Status page visits go up: 3000% - 6000%
Feature Bus Status on School Websites
Check out Wetaskiwin Regional Public’s school websites. I’m currently looking at the C.B. McMurdo website, where you’ll find a fast and easy link to bus statuses, on every page of the website. School websites also receive a dramatic increase in traffic on these cold days. It’s important that school websites have the information posted as well, not just your division website.
Making it easy for parents to get information will cut down the calls made to school offices - your school administration will applaud you!
Get a Grid
Don’t annoy your visitors by making them scroll through a large listing of buses. Get an online bus status grid for your website.
Your grid should easily show the bus number, status, time of the status update and a comments section to explain the cancellation or delay. Check out Wild Rose Public School’s easily searchable bus grid here. It has all the information a visitor would be seeking. Wild Rose also has a notice at the top of every page on their website that clearly says buses aren’t running.
Make sure when you implement a grid system, it is easy to use. Whoever updates the bus statuses has to be able to easily make changes on time - families are counting on it!
What are your best practices for communicating inclement weather information?
Have a question or ready to share your other inclement weather best practices with other divisions? By all means, please comment below.
Or, if you prefer connecting online through Twitter @BoxCleverEdu or Facebook you can find us there too.