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LA's RFK Schools Use Open Source to Reduce Costs

Chantal Forster | September 9 2010
LA's RFK Schools Use Open Source to Reduce Costs

Onsite at RFK Community Schools in LA

Often referred to as the "Taj Mahal" of schools, the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles saved money by using Plone for its new website.

A Renewed Commitment to Education

Named for the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy and located on the site of his assassination in 1968, the RFK Community Schools are the epitome of promise for an undereducated America.
 
Not only is the architecture stunning and warm (just the kind of space where I'd have relished going to school) but it's located in a community that, for decades, has seen very little investment.

All that's changed with the opening of the new schools complex.

The RFK Community Schools don't just symbolizes financial investment in an underserved minority community. Through their educational partnership with UCLA, they symbolizes something even more important -- intellectual investment through educational innovation.

RFK Community Schools are now one of the most public instances of the small learning community approach to education.

Building a Pragmatic Website

When it came time to build a website, the RFK Schools, overburdened by the costs of physical build-out, needed a pragmatic approach to the web.

In late 2009, UCLA, a partner in the new LA schools, contacted our firm to construct a beautiful but lean website based on the Plone content management system. UCLA already uses Plone throughout the university and felt the system's sophisticated workflow, versioning, and security was an ideal fit. Plus, because Plone is a free open source CMS, the schools wouldn't be saddled with annual royalty fees or exorbitant consultant contracts.

In early 2010, we met with the RFK principals in LA, discussing the schools' outreach goals and publishing scheme.

Onsite at RFK Schools in LA Onsite at RFK Schools in LA Onsite at RFK Schools in LA

 

Back at our offices in Albuquerque, we crafted a lean but visually-pleasing site based on the free schools template by Quintagroup. We transformed the Quintagroup skin to suit the bright modern aesthetic of the schools' architecture.

Site design transformation

Features we developed include:

  • Modernized design theme
  • Multi-layered navigation to support a prominent presence for individual schools
  • School subsites can be customized with banner images, slideshow images, color accents, and custom information architecture.
  • Publishing groups given access only to each subsite.
  • News & Events calendars that "roll-up" from schools to the sitewide main page.

Though the budget did not allow for content strategy or authoring by FosterMilo, the schools are on their way to using the system to publish just what their community needs. We feel great about jumpstarting their efforts.

Visit their site at rfkcommunityschools.org.

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