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Warren County schools want local proposals for website redesign

By Kim Walter

Members of the Warren County School Board have decided to put out a request for proposals to the public, hoping to find a local company that can take on the task of redesigning websites for all nine schools, the school board office and seven school logos.

Melody Sheppard, the division's director of technology, has been working with instructional technology resource teachers since January to decide what should be included on the websites and in a contract between the school system and the website designer.

While she suggested approving a contract with a Winchester-based company at the board meeting on Nov. 8, board members said they felt that more time was needed to discuss options.

At the school board's meeting on Tuesday night, Sheppard presented members with the various methods that surrounding counties use for website design and upkeep.

Out of 13 school districts, she found that only Harrisonburg hired a designer, while a majority of the others either hired a template producer, or purchased software to develop their own template. Sheppard also pointed out that a number of the school systems have a technology specialist who is more familiar with Web design.

Shenandoah County uses SharpSchool, which makes websites consistent for each school in the district. Sheppard said it's pretty simple, but costs $13,500 a year.

In comparison, the school received three proposals from two Winchester companies and one design company from Front Royal.

The cheapest proposal cost came from Zooma, located in Winchester, for $27,370.

"The reason I recommended them was solely based on cost," Sheppard said. The company has already worked with the district in designing Skyline High School's website.

Sheppard said she's received feedback from parents and administrators alike who would like to see consistency between all of the schools' websites.

Shotton Design, of Front Royal, proposed services for $27,560 and Winchester-based Web Strategies gave a proposal cost of $33,329.

All the companies provided a list of references and samples of their work, and Sheppard said they "were all comparable."

She had approached a couple other local web designers, but they had decided the project was too large for their companies to take on.

Sheppard said the work needed to research the design, come up with a template, construct and launch the sites, as well as design logos for seven schools will take about five to six months.

"If we're going to spend this much on hiring someone, I'd rather see the money go locally," said board member Kimberly Athey. "I know of at least one person in town who would like to at least submit a proposal."

The board asked Sheppard to put together an RFP that would be up for approval at their December meeting.

Although an RFP is not required for this particular project, the board felt it was the best way to let as many local designers know as possible. Those companies that already submitted proposals will have a second chance with the RFP.

Sheppard hopes to have all proposals by January or February so that the new websites could be ready for launch by the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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