School district expands app's reach, services
As the world goes mobile, McKinney ISD is determined to keep up.
Since releasing its misdGO application last fall, nearly 13,000 people have downloaded it. The app's next version is already in the works - with the same goal: a one-stop shop for information.
"Overall feedback has been extremely positive," Cody Cunningham, McKinney ISD chief communications officer, said of misdGO. "There are still things we don't have, things we're working on."
About 70 percent of misdGO downloads have been by iPhone users, about 25 percent by Android users, and the rest by Blackberry users. Cunningham said that, having talked to other area school districts with similar apps, few, if any, have seen as high a download rate.
The misdGO app provides users - parents and students - with district news alerts, school dining options, district maps and just about everything McKinney ISD. Users most frequently take advantage of misdGO's Home Access Center (HAC) icon, which leads them to student grades, progress reports, attendance records and class assignments.
This year's HAC will go live this week, as the school district spent the first week of the school year updating new student information. The HAC includes such information only for secondary students, but the district plans to soon expand it to all elementary students and parents.
App users regularly look at district news and campus lunch menus from their smart phones. The misdGO employment section, which lists McKinney ISD job openings, also experiences "quite a lot of traffic," Cunningham said.
Other app icons give users access to a staff directory, library book status and upcoming sports events and fine arts performances. Officials are looking to add a Get Help icon that would provide in one section the top 10 to 15 numbers parents and students contact, such as those for curriculum and instruction, fine arts, main administration and student services.
The app's latest version uses push notifications to send out alerts related to bad weather, school closings and other critical information users need to know immediately. The next misdGO version is set to include a designated area for such alerts, so users can view them continuously.
"We're working on the next iteration of the misdGO app, it's just not completed at this time," said Allen McDaniel, McKinney ISD chief information officer. "We're talking with our vendors about further integration so parents continue to have just one place to go."
McKinney ISD last year partnered with WillowTree Apps, a mobile app development company based in Virginia, to launch the first version of misdGO. The school district works with separate vendors for different services accessed through the app, such as student information systems, online payments and library services.
For several years, the district has used Horizon Software International's MyPaymentsPlus (previously MealpayPlus) program to facilitate online payments for students' on-campus meals. Through MyPaymentsPlus, which is used by more than 13,000 schools in 600 school districts nationwide, parents with children at different schools within a school district can make one payment that disperses automatically.
MyPaymentsPlus funds the students' accounts and tracks the funds, removing the need for separate checks sent to separate schools.
"It's just making it easier for them to do everything," said Tina Bennett, vice president of online payments systems for Horizon. "It simplifies the entire process and really takes the paper piece out."
Horizon recently launched an app that allows users to make on-the-go meal payments straight from their iPhones and iPads, a process McKinney ISD is hoping to integrate into the misdGO app.
"McKinney has been with us for quite some time, and they use us for everything from inventory order processing to the point of sale and everything they do in their cafeteria," Bennett said. "We kind of help them with the software that runs their organization."
But McKinney ISD officials were just made aware of Horizon's new meal-pay app, and are open to its service only if they can incorporate it into misdGO.
"We're not engaging parents if they're asked to download 20 different apps for 20 different things, and it's not reasonable to expect parents to do that," Cunningham said. "Our goal is to work with vendors so [users] have a single source for information."
The school district prints publications with information found on misdGO for parents and students without access to a computer or smart phone. Such a population is vastly dwindling, though, so McKinney ISD remains app-ready.
"We know most parents spend more time on their phones than their computer," Cunningham said. "We're committed to providing a mobile solution for them."
For more information about misdGO, visit www.mckinneyisd.net/misdgo.
Copyright © 2013 - Star Local News