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Mill Creek cluster to launch mobile app

Set to launch later this month, the new Mill Creek cluster mobile app is a free download available in the iTunes store and the Google Play Store. The logo for the app was developed by a Mill Creek student in the digital art program. It’s called “MC3,” which stands for the Mill Creek Cluster Connection. (Special Photo)

Set to launch later this month, the new Mill Creek cluster mobile app is a free download available in the iTunes store and the Google Play Store. The logo for the app was developed by a Mill Creek student in the digital art program. It’s called “MC3,” which stands for the Mill Creek Cluster Connection. (Special Photo)

Communication spreads so fast these days that one Gwinnett principal admitted that some parents knew school was closed recently before he did.

That same principal, Paul Willis of Fort Daniel Elementary in Dacula, said parents at his school who have other children at a middle school and Mill Creek High, all within the same cluster, may get a different form of communication from each school.

“One parent may get an email from me, a text from Osborne (Middle), and a Twitter from (Principal) Jason (Lane) at Mill Creek,” Willis said.

The cluster, with nine schools is among the largest in the Gwinnett County Public Schools district, will launch on Feb. 28 what it hopes to be a solution: a mobile application for the entire cluster.

“I do think it is a sign of the times and leveraging the technology that is in our kids’ hands, and our parents’ hands,” Lane said.

The entire development cost $1,500, Lane said, and each school will have a yearly fee. The app is a free download available in the iTunes store and the Google Play store. The logo for the app was developed by a Mill Creek student in the digital art program. It’s called “MC3,” which stands for the Mill Creek Cluster Connection.

“This is an attempt to pull us all together and brand ourselves,” Willis said. “We have many parents who have kids at all three levels, so to receive the same communication is really important to us.”

Patrick Elementary Principal Tyese Scott-Oates said the app was designed to make communicating more convenient.

“As they move from one school to the next, making sure that information is common, so they’re not learning a new web page, a new tool, every year,” she said.

Eventually, the app could be used to provide access to the district’s eCLASS initiative assignments.

Last month, South Gwinnett High was the first Gwinnett school to launch a mobile app that features a school calendar, basic general information about the school and a directory of employees with their phone number and email address.

Principal Eric Thigpen said during last week’s winter storm, the app was used for push notifications to alert families about school closings. Thigpen said he’s told his students to be proud that they’re pioneers and trailblazers in this area.

“I see this as not only the wave of the future, but right now our students communicate with apps,” Thigpen said. “This is just a way to better engage our young people.”

Thigpen said the app has been downloaded about 900 times on the Apple platform, and about 500 times for Android products.

The mobile app trend has spread across the country as schools continue to look for new ways to communicate with parents and families. District officials have also begun preliminary research for a district-wide app.

Other examples of app features that schools use are attendance records and grades, newsletters, lunch menus, bus-stop schedules and portals where parents can replenish a cafeteria account.

GCPS already announces school closings on social media sites, and in recent weeks has gained thousands of “likes” and followers.

It’s another form of communication that follows robo-calls, backpack fliers, mass emails and text message alerts.

Lane also said the app could have been handy during the recent winter storm that closed school last week.

“We could have used the app to send a push notification to their phone, like a one way text message, informing them of the news,” he said.

That app stream lines the information, and makes it more efficient because Willis, for example, cannot send a mass email outside of his school’s computer network.

“If it’s never used, it’s not going to be paid attention to, but if it’s over used it’s not going to be paid attention to,” Willis said. “So you have to strike a balance.”