Parents using Net more and more

Two years ago, when prospective public school parent Katie Russell began looking for an elementary school for her child, she started by going online.

The San Francisco Unified School District posts individual pages for each school on its Web site, which provides basic information about each school’s programs, bus schedules, demographics and recent test scores, but Russell said the information was pretty “basic and uninteresting.”

She did find a strong online resource, she said, at

www.greatschools.net, a colorful easy-to-use site that allows parents to compare schools as well as offers parent reviews.

Parents at schools that have Web sites say that they can be great enrollment tools, but they are equally valuable in getting information out to the current parent population.

“I’m a working parent and had a great desire to be involved in the school, but was frustrated by the on-site method of disseminating information. Flyers or bulletins in the hallways, backpack mail that often didn’t make it home,” said former Alvarado Elementary parent Susan Norris, who signed up a few years ago to design the Noe Valley school’s Web site.

Currently, about one-third of San Francisco’s public schools have Web sites linked to the district’s; the number is growing however, as schools compete for the district’s dwindling enrollment.

When George Peabody Elementary School in the Richmond District got placed on the school board’s list for possible closure or merger, for example, parents quickly moved to update a lackluster site, Peabody parent Sharon Ohlson said.

“We felt it was our duty to share the positive aspects of Peabody,” said Ohlson. “The Web site was our opportunity to get our name out there if anybody wanted to see what we were about.”

McKinley Elementary, located near The Castro, was also considered for closure because of its small size, despite rising test scores and enrollment. Last year, parents started working on a Web site, which made its debut last weekend — just in time for the district’s school enrollment fair.

However impressive, or unimpressive, a school’s Web site is, some parents said it wasn’t a good idea to just shop online for your child’s school and encouraged prospective parents to tour as many schools as possible.

Russell’s child ended up at Grattan Elementary, in Cole Valley, a choice she said she is very happy with. Ironically, she had looked at the school’s Web site, which is linked to the district page, and she wasn’t impressed. Now, however, a new parent has come on board and has turned the page into an “amazing” resource, Russell said.

beslinger@examiner.com

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