PS 309 & The New American Academy


Department of Education

  • Digital Design & Development


January 2015


How can digital platforms for schools go beyond “brochureware”?

The online presence of public schools is pretty bare.  Schools either have a standard, generic template from the department of education created websites, or, more often, nothing at all. We’ve always found this to be a serious oversight. The internet is a cutting edge space for education and our public schools shouldn’t be left out.  Giving them their own digital voice,  isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.

We created unique platforms for two NYC schools in Brooklyn – PS309, a public elementary school,  and The New American Academy, a charter school. We were thrilled to tackle these projects, because, while they may be smaller in scale , they both have huge implications on how technology and data can help these schools… and the larger institutions that govern them.

Often our clients have conflicting desires when it comes to their digital platform. They want an online space that is beautiful, alive, current and interactive. They also need something that is easy to update, simple to use and convenient to add new content to. Our clients are busy – very busy.  The digital presence they want and need is rarely their “full time job” – designers and filmmakers want to show off their portfolio and work, chefs and restaurants want to show off their products and craft, and schools need to connect with their community. These two schools were no exception – managing hundreds of elementary school kids doesn’t leave a lot of time to update a website.

The Problem

The schools approached us about creating an online space for their teachers, family, and students to interact with the school. Both are located in lower income sections of Brooklyn and they needed a way reach out to their community with a simple, yet updatable space. It needed to be responsive to mobile users and backward compatible with older browsers and technology. Both of the sites needed to provide a lot of information – including school happenings, calendars, details on the school’s performance, guidelines and an overview for prospective parents – all in a simple to use, friendly, and easily digestible format.

The CMYK Solution

PS309 had us on their radar for a while and were waiting for an opportune time to create something special for their school.  They had a lot of ideas, but the most important goal was to empower teachers to use and leverage the site to connect with students, parents and the broader community. We created a space for each grade level, where teachers could distribute homework to students. Each teacher has their own unique log-in to a WordPress CMS, were they can update homework, class materials, and notifications, during weekly professional development sessions.  IN addition, we created a news space (the Wibecan Wire) for parents and the greater community to better understand the happenings of the school.

Check out PS309 for stories on salad bars,  parties for relieving stress from tests, and even Mad Hot Ballroom.

Connecting with the school community was also a top priority for the New American Academy. To achieve this, we created a “what’s happening now”  feature to make the site seem active and alive. This feature includes the daily school schedule, synced to the users’ local time, and then gives a glimpse into the activities and schedules of the students.  Not only can you see when its recess, but you can check out when lunch is and then go and take a peek at the lunch menu.  We created an easily updatable calendar which syncs with Google and integrates into the site seamlessly. This eliminates extra work for the schools administration team and keeps the world up-to-date with the schools’ happenings.  We also created an “alert” feature for the site. This gives the administration control to push emergency alerts and important information to site visitors when.

Both schools actively use their new online worlds regularly and easily. It’s changing the way they communicate with parents, students and even themselves.   The technology has given them a way to communicate faster and better with their families. All of this helps their schools become a centerpiece for their community.




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