Graduating to a New Class of School Websites

FCPS

 

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is the tenth largest school division in the United States, serving a population of more than 186,000 students and employing 24,600 full-time staff. As a school district dedicated to academic achievement, as well as engagement with the local community, the FCPS website needed to serve the needs of students, parents and employees across 194 schools, each with its own website. 

In 2015, Forum One partnered with FCPS to design a new central website showcasing vibrant colors, bold imagery, and a seamless user experience. This new design reflects the energy of the district and serves as a welcoming platform for multiple audiences.

We then set to work adapting and extending the refreshed design and user-friendly information architecture to the 194 individual school websites. Each school can spin off a site that stays consistent and closely integrated with the latest updates from the FCPS central site, while showcasing its school colors and unique content.

Powering Websites for Scale and Ease 

Forum One developed a custom, state-of-the-art install profile in Drupal 8 that lets FCPS create individual school websites in minutes. The install profile is scalable and flexible, balancing consistency with the ability to serve the needs of each individual school.

With each website sharing a common template, FCPS can deliver consistent functionality throughout the entire district – and make updates once to the central site that automatically push to all 194 individual sites. The main FCPS site serves as the central content hub for FCPS news, course lists, and library resources. Each individual school site taps into automatic feeds indicating district-wide announcements and events, like the latest weather alerts and delays. 

At the same time, the flexible design of the template gives schools the opportunity to truly make their sites their own. Each school can choose a theme reflecting its school colors and mascots, feature custom photos, and add school-specific events, announcements, and resources.

Building Blocks for Design

Forum One’s creative and development teams joined forces to capitalize on Drupal 8’s cutting-edge technology, creating a template that allows each school to build beautiful, on-brand pages and customize their content with intuitive paragraph widgets. 

Given the high volume of parents who access the central and individual school websites via handheld devices, we also made sure the site was fully mobile responsive. Forum One took a mobile-first approach to designing and building the template, serving current users while setting the stage for smart, sustainable updates going forward. 

With Complexity Comes Opportunity

To help FCPS get the most out of its new sites, Forum One provided extensive trainings to school administrators on best practices for how to use the innovative platform and templates to build their school websites. We worked closely with FCPS central staff to devise and execute a comprehensive release plan to launch all of the individual school sites. The central FCPS site launched in summer 2016, and the first 15 school sites went live in early 2017. 

Reimagining the digital space for the tenth largest school district in the country was an unprecedented and exciting opportunity for Forum One that has raised the bar for our future projects, and for how public education websites can serve their complex, diverse audiences.