Julie Cowan knows from looking at her phone what her 10-year-old son was served for lunch in the cafeteria at Brookwood Elementary School in Dalton, Ga.
And she knows from the mobile app there is a book fair at Dalton High School where her daughter is a freshman, that her daughter's friend won a tournament and that classes Friday were a make-up day for bad weather.
"It's a great feature," said Cowan, about Dalton Public Schools' new mobile app. "This is the easiest access that there is."
In January, the Dalton school district rolled out the new mobile app for students and parents to download for free, calling it cutting-edge technology for the area. Pat Holloway, the district's spokeswoman, said she got the idea for the app after attending a national conference and learning the largest school districts in Atlanta and many across the country use the technology.
Within the first two months of introducing the app, about 2,500 users signed up, Holloway said.
The mobile app allows users to stay up-to-date with school and district news and any announcement alerts. The app also allows parents to easily access their child's grades, homework assignments and any news specific to their child's school. Students also can log on to access their own information.
When area meteorologists were predicting snow and ice on Jan. 22, the school district was able to immediately send a push notification to parents' phones, announcing school would be dismissed early that day.
"I had several principals tell me that it was the most efficient dismissal we had ever had," Holloway said.
The school district paid $12,000 for a three-year contract with SchoolInfoApp to create the app and administer it after district personnel noticed 41 percent of viewers of the school district's website were accessing it through mobile devices, Holloway said.
"We felt like it was a great opportunity and the right way to reach our community," she said.
Another key feature to the app is that it translates into 15 languages, which Holloway said is useful in a school district that is 69 percent Hispanic. There are 22 languages represented in the Dalton community, she said.
In Hamilton County, after school leaders faced sharp public criticism for their response to the rape of an Ooltewah student during a basketball tournament in December, the district introduced technology online that allows parents and students to send anonymous reports of bullying or abuse through the website.
Hamilton County Assistant Superintendent Lee McDade said the school district also is working to develop a mobile app that will allow parents to access their child's grades, attendance and any disciplinary action, but the earliest the technology could be available is in August.
Some parents, Cowan said, will find it extremely useful to check on their kids' progress. As for Cowan, she said she rarely uses the Dalton schools app for that function, but she appreciates having the option.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6659.