Santa Rosa City Schools will roll out an app this fall that sends push notifications during emergencies, part of the district’s efforts to upgrade its digital presence following the launch of its new website last month.

The October wildfires didn’t have a direct impact on the design or the decision to incorporate push alerts, a standard feature in the new app, said Beth Berk, the district’s communications coordinator. A proposal for the new website and app hosted by Blackboard Inc. was approved at a June 2017 board meeting.

However, “the October fires did demonstrate the value of using every tool available to reach our school community,” Berk said.

The app would be one of several tools the district utilizes to reach students, parents and staff, in addition to phone calls, emails, website posts and social media in current use.

The new website, srcschools.org, has a simpler design that’s easy to navigate. Many users found the old website outdated and difficult to search. It also didn’t meet accessibility standards.

“When we designed the website, it was a mobile-first mentality. You’re more likely to go to our website via phone than you are a computer browser,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Rick Edson said at a board meeting last month.

The new website also has large icons that link to the district’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube pages. Berk said Facebook is most popular.

“Many families found social media was a great way to stay in touch when our schools were closed in October of 2017,” Superintendent Diann Kitamura said in a district video introducing the new website to the community.

The website and app proposal said initial setup would cost $16,290, with an annual cost of $52,389 for all Blackboard products used by the district, including its mass notification system.

Another change this year in the district’s communications is the move from paper flyers to digital flyers, using a digital service called Peachjar.

Flyers from each school will be emailed to parents in Spanish and English.

“No more missing out because the paper got lost,” Kitamura said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated $52,389 for the annual cost of the new app and website for Santa Rosa's school district. The annual cost includes its mass notification system, as well.