East Montpelier, Vermont
This month, we simply had too hard a time choosing between the two sites which most impressed us. So, we're awarding the Star School of the Month to two websites, a first in the four years we've been awarding Star School status on a monthly basis. First we'll discuss Union 32 Jr./Sr. High School, and then BASHonline.
Why do we like Union 32's site?
As opposed to many websites, which emphasize form over content, Union 32's site is jam-packed with content. Everything accessible through their site is available directly from the front page, in a simple, easy-to-browse table/column format. That's not to say the site is unattractive, though. Rather, the color schemes used are kind to the eyes, text is perfectly easy to read and one's attention isn't distracted from the available topics by flashy design meant to cover for a lack of actual information available for perusal.
A friend has always talked about the low ratio of text-to-graphics on the "average" website; his homepage bears a regularly updated ratio of text to graphics, so he can tout his 3:1 difference between words and pretty pictures. We were -very- impressed, when viewing the Union 32 site, by the sheer -volume- of useful information on their site. The entire thing is devoted to nothing -but- the distribution of information (everything from a complete catalogue of courses to information on the school's renovation efforts and airborne pollution associated with certain building materials). Two other unusual points made us sit up and take note of Union 32's site: the entire site is designed by students, from pages for the Spanish language classes done by students in those classes to various sections of the site designed by the school's computer club, and the entire site is devoted to distributing information of relevance to the school's immediate community. It isn't a site designed to tell the world about the school; it's designed to give the community the information about the school -it- needs, a direct return on that community's investments in technology.
Who are the people behind Union 32's site?
Everyone at their school, practically, from what we could see. But, the contact person for their school's website is Dennis Beloin, technology coordinator.
Why do we like the BASHonline site?
A while back, we featured an "unofficial" school website as the Star School of the Month. In that review, we discussed the fact that "unofficial" sites might become more and more common, and that schools will have to decide whether to work with such student-run sites or define policies which deal with those who seek to represent the school without the school's permission. This month, we award the Star School of the Month to just such a site, BASHonline, the student- and alumni-produced website for Boyertown Area High School, of Boytertown, Pennsylvania. And, as an "unofficial" site, it openly admits that it has run into its share of troubles with the school and the school district in which it functions.
BASHonline speaks for itself, in terms of content and design; the site is a joy to peruse, easily navigated and rife with useful information for students and alumni, covering such topics as upcoming class reunions and where to get help with homework, teachers' information, the school newspaper in an on-line format, archived as far back as a year and a half. Additionally, the site is undergoing a massive redesign, with an apologetic disclaimer on the front page which states that some links might not work, and if so, the webmasters apologize and will be fixing it as soon as possible. The thing is, every link we tried worked. Keeping information that well-organized, in the midst of a major redesign, is a trying task for anyone. Here at CEARCH, we've faced many an afternoon of hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing at the fact that we were trying to reorganize some part of the site (or all of it -- have you really looked at how many pages we have?) and links were breaking left and right. We have to tip our virtual hat to the people maintaining BASHonline for a job well done with a smooth transition to a new look.
An interesting side note to all of this is a section of the BASHonline site which is accessible from their main page: the "Special Announcement" section. In it is a discussion of the fact that the school, and the school district, have at various times tried to bring an end to BASHonline. While we have no comment one way or the other (the site is very well done, but it is done without the school's permission, and there are strong arguments for either side in that debate), we had to take note of the results from the informal poll taken of those who peruse BASHonline. One hundred seventy eight users had voted that, yes, they believed BASHonline was a worthwhile venture which represented the school and served the students well. Six voted that, no, the site shouldn't seek to represent someone whose permission it didn't have. We leave the interpretation to our readers, and once again disclaim any particular endorsement on our parts.
Who are the people behind BASHonline's site?
BASHonline is maintained by students and alumni of Boyertown Area High School, and can be reached by emailing email@example.com.
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