Exploring Durham Public Schools with Ease

When Alex Lemann, 32, started thinking about raising a family and buying a home in Durham, he was amazed to find that there was no single website where he could find all the public-funded schools — neighborhood, magnets and charters — on a map. Much less understand the different zoning complexities or compare schools in any way.

As member of Code for Durham, a local volunteer group of civic-minded technologists and community advocates, he brought this challenge to our group. We believe all citizens deserve the best user experiences possible when it comes to getting information about tax-funded services, regardless of one’s views on education policy. So we took a second look at the existing DPS website and adapted it to a more user-friendly, map-based interface using more modern technology.

Many months and Github commits later, Code for Durham is proud to present the alpha release of Durham’s School Navigator @ schools.codefordurham.com.

School Navigator (Alpha) seeks to make it easier to understand the local public school options, and to support Durham Public Schools (DPS) in their mission. We have reached out to partner with leaders at DPS and the DPS Parent-Teachers Association to ensure we are supporting them.


School Navigator in two steps…

Phase 1 — De-mystify local zoning!

We heard from many parents and friends that figuring out what zone you belonged to was way too difficult. It took parents hours to discuss and research the options. And while we appreciate the social bonding effect of relying on word of mouth for all information, that’s not how this should work!

Our beta release reflects Phase 1 — showing you all the schools and all of their zones, when those zones are factors in your ability to access that school based on your residential location.

Phase 2 — More data

This is where you come in. We want to bring more relevant information into the school decision-making process, but want inputs from parents on what is relevant and needed. We are interested in sites like the recently released the College Scorecard as a model of simple but informative interface for sharing data.

Please take a quick survey to improve School Navigator, a new community based website for Durham parents by October 20th: http://bit.ly/schoolnavsurvey

Sharing is Caring

Below is a blurb we’d love for you to share with your friends or neighborhood groups or other relevant listserves in email as well.

Please take a quick survey to improve School Navigator, a new website for Durham parents. Did you ever have trouble figuring out which school zone you live in? Or wish you had better access to information about public schools in Durham? School Navigator is a new community-led website created to meet these needs. We are looking for your feedback, parents, on how to make it better! Please take 5–10 minutes to complete our survey here by October 20th: http://bit.ly/schoolnavsurvey

Our goals in this community effort

Help parents understand the public schools available to their family and make informed schooling decisions based on accurate and complete information Provide a common platform for all public schools to share information about their offerings and accomplishments with parents We aspire to apply most of the principles of the U.S. Digital Services Playbook to our Code for Durham projects (at least as applicable for being a volunteer led group). Some of those principles include:

  1. Understand what people need — we’ve done 80 user tests to get initial feedback and are engaging the Parent-Teachers Association to get input to the design of phase 2
  2. Keep it simple and intuitive — the search + map interface choice is meant to simplify the experience
  3. Address the whole experience from start to finish — eventually, we would like to address the entire experience parents go through in choosing a school or a place to live based on schools

If you are a User Experience Designer, please reach out @codefordurham - We need your help entering this next phase of the project! If you are a python, angular developer, check out our Github repo.

Code for Durham
Code for Durham