The Whitehall City School District launched its upgraded website this month as part of a continuing effort to improve communication with parents and residents.

The Whitehall City School District launched its upgraded website this month as part of a continuing effort to improve communication with parents and residents.

Four years ago, the district decided to bring the website's design and maintenance in-house to save money and give staff and administration more control. It used Joomla, a content management system that allows anyone to build websites for free.

But the site wasn't fast enough, district leaders said, and staff did not have time to update it regularly.

The new site, whitehallcityschools.org, was launched July 4 to coincide with the unveiling of the district's new logo, featured on the front page.

"While the site is a work in progress, my hope is that the finished product will be much more user-friendly and current," said district Superintendent Brian Hamler. "The new site is easier to navigate for both the visitor and employees who are populating it with information.

"We will also have the ability to solicit e-mail addresses, set up text alerts to improve external communications."

The move is part of Hamler's overall plan to boost communication. Throughout his first year on the job, Hamler has made a point of opening the lines of communication, hiring a marketing director and launching a Facebook page, in addition to updating the district logo and overhauling the website.

"Lack of communication is a consistent concern of stakeholders in every district I have worked in. The website is part of that effort," said Hamler.

District Treasurer Steve McAfee said the new website came with a one-time design and setup fee of $3,738 to Columbus-based eSchoolView.

eSchoolView provides services to around 1,300 school districts throughout the country.

Annual hosting and maintenance costs will be $1,611 after a federal subsidy to support communications is applied, McAfee said.

James Freeman, the district's previous director of technology, resigned from Whitehall in June to take a position elsewhere. His duties, including oversight of the website, now fall under Dave Hausmann, director of operations.

The site features a news page, calendar, links to social media and portal pages, department updates, an expanded athletics page, alumni information and photos. In addition to regular updates on its Facebook page and Twitter account, the district's YouTube channel, whitehallcityschools, features videos of band performances, plays and holiday concerts.

While visitors to the new website sometimes will see the message, "This page is currently not available," Hamler said information still is being entered into the system.