Reinventing LASA life

Hanif Amanullah, Staff Writer

The start of the spring semester was marked with the introduction of the new LASA Life App. Designed by former PFLASA co-chair Geeta Suggs and principal Stacia Crescenzi, the new application is a window into school life and the LASA community.

Suggs built the app herself. She said she first learned about the need for an app from Crescenzi, who said she wanted a way for students to get announcements through their phones. At first, Suggs was doubtful that she would be able to make the app.

“[Crescenzi] wanted some system that students could get the announcements at any given time,” Suggs said. “That was it. I didn’t even tell her I was researching anything because I wasn’t sure I could solve it.”

Crescenzi had realized within the last year that LASA’s intercom announcements, which play once a day, don’t work for every classroom.

“For a few years now, I’ve been unsatisfied with audio announcements being the primary communication tool of knowing what’s going on around the campus,” Crescenzi said. “I thought there had to be some kind of app so that students could just have the announcements on their phone. And she took that to heart.”

Instead of having to program the app in its entirety, Suggs was able to find an external, digital platform called Appsheet. The platform displays information from a Google spreadsheet. This direct connection allows all LASA announcements, teacher information, club contact information and more to be displayed.

“In order for it to work, I made a test system with a Google form for announcement submissions,” Suggs said. The spreadsheet has lots of calculations on it to keep track of when an announcement is automatically taken off the list, what order it is displayed, how it is displayed, etc. Once I had a working prototype (took about a week), I met with Ms. Crescenzi and showed her.”

By the time the fall semester began, Suggs had finished the app. Suggs wrote some javascript to automate the processes that happen behind the scenes. After that, Suggs met with science teacher Helen Wilson to embed the app within BLEND, to maximize accessibility.

“The app is a way to keep up to date with the big announcements on campus,” Crescenzi said. “As well as a place to find basic information on clubs, sports, teacher office hours–info every student wants to know.”

Once the app was mostly finished, Suggs and Crescenzi gathered a focus group to test out the functions before the spring semester release.

“Last semester, we piloted it with just a very small group of parents and staff to work out any bugs,” Crescenzi said. “What did people wish was there and so on…so that before we went live in the spring–and that was our ‘go live’ date–we would have already worked [the bugs] out.”

Suggs used some of the ideas discussed to complete the last inner workings of the app.

“We discussed some of the procedures and how the announcement submission process would work,” Siggs said. “LASA administration needs to approve each submission. Before this, announcements were only the daily verbal announcements that were read over PA. So many students would come to the office to ask about various messages that they missed.”

When it comes to her hopes for the app, Crescenzi said she wants it to be accessible first and foremost.

“I guess it’s got two parts,” Crescenzi said. “On the announcements, I hope that it’s a place to check what was said during announcements so that they don’t miss…an event they wanted to go to, and so they can see the accolades of their friends. The other piece of it is the basic information, the stuff that doesn’t change. I hope students feel more connected.”

Freshman Rohan Malhotra said he feels the information is redundant and that many students do not know the app exists.

“I’d assume [the LASA Life App] is something people would spend too much time on or not actually use,” Malhotra said. “I can access those resources on the website, or on BLEND. And there are announcements that go on during the day.”

Overall, Malhotra said the announcements were sufficient, and that perhaps the LASA administration had been a little bit too critical.

“Not everybody in the class listens,” Malhotra said. “But when they do, they have useful information.”