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Do Schools Really Need a Mobile App to Engage Parents?

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By Jay Cooper
Nov 21, 2023 2:46:20 PM

Schools have so many ways to reach parents these days – from text notifications to email to social media. School communications planning is a puzzle where each of these pieces has to fit together, and the more pieces you have, the more complex the puzzle becomes. So is a district-specific mobile app really necessary, or is it simply channel overload?

The easiest way to answer this question is to look at the data. A 2023 report on Zippia showed that the average American uses 30 apps each month on their smartphone, and 85 percent of their time spent on their phone is spent using an app. Furthermore, the number of annually downloaded apps has increased by over 60 percent since 2016. This demonstrates that yes, mobile apps are not only important to people (and parents) but they’re a crucial part of the user experience. 


Download the School Mobile App Planning Guide here

If you don’t have a school mobile app for messaging, you are missing out on a major opportunity for personalized communication with your parents. Mobile apps are a vital part of an integrated communications approach. They do not substitute for other methods, like text notifications and social media, but they work in tandem with those other tools for a holistic and effective communications strategy.

The benefits of using a school mobile app

So, what does a school mobile app achieve that can’t be achieved via text or email? There will be some overlap, certainly, but there are also specific messages that are best confined to the app itself.

A school mobile app offers a quick, branded way for parents to quickly find critical school information like calendars, events, forms, and other school resources. Your app should be complete and exhaustive - if there is something a parent might need, it should be found here. Some key resources that should be available in your mobile app include a directory of school staff and teachers, access to student grade reports, a thorough and updated calendar of events, news updates and photos, and social connection icons that allow parents to click through to your school’s profile on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. 


A look at the Top 5 School Mobile Apps

 

While all of these features should also be available on the school website, the mobile app is likely a preferred method of communication for most parents because it’s more convenient. Opening an app and having a complete picture of their student’s information – the soccer practice schedule, the lunch menu, grades, and upcoming field trips – is far easier than seeking out each of these facets of information individually on the website or via email communication with staff and teachers.

Furthermore, mobile apps offer a crucial messaging feature: push notifications. While they should be used carefully and sparingly, it’s hard to beat the immediacy of a mobile app push notification. These can be very effective for communicating safety-related updates about weather, or time-sensitive items like early closure. 

Next steps: Help with choosing a school mobile app 

Selecting a school mobile app is no small feat, and it requires some intensive research and careful planning. A good place to start is our list of the top 20 school mobile apps with reviews. This allows you to read about each of the leading competitors and narrow it down to a few that work best with your existing systems and address your priorities. You can also check out our School Mobile App Planning Guide, an excellent resource for building the perfect school mobile app to meet your needs. 

 

The right school mobile app, above all, will integrate seamlessly with your other communications tools like your website, social media channels, and email software. Integrated communications is a time- and money-saving approach. If there are bumpy connections between any of the tools in your school communications network, you’ll spend more time dealing with that tech hassle than you spend crafting meaningful messages for your school community – and nobody wants that. 

Download SchoolNow's School Mobile App Planning Guide

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About the author

Marketing manager and content strategist for SchoolStatus, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who has helped school districts, universities, and businesses generate support and optimize relationships. Reach him at jay.cooper@schoolstatus.com.