Rebuilding the Home and School Federation Website in 2012

The PEI Home and School Federation's first website was built under the umbrella of the Parent Engagement Initiative in 2009. The site immediately became a useful and valuable communications tool for the federation.

The site was built using Dreamweaver and hosted by the Department of Education on its webserver. While this arrangement worked well for several years, eventually the technology showed its limitations: the dependence on a single computer to manage the site left us vulnerable, and the reliance on a single computer to update the site was inflexible. Dreamweaver itself is not really a tool optimized for maintaining a complex "news-style" website, especially if there are multiple authors.

So, in the spring of 2012 the decision was made to rebuild the website using a Drupal, a modern, free, open-source content management system that would work well for a more complex site with many contributors.

Tanner Brine, a graduate of Island schools and a student at Mount Allison University, offered his services as an intern to guide and manage the effort, and over the summer of 2012 he set up Drupal, moved the content from the old website to the new, and organized the content and its presentation with a goal to making everything clearer and easier to find.

On the first day of the 2012-2013 school year the new website was launched, using a new address, The new site is, and will continue to be, a "work in progress" — as our needs evolve, so too will the site. As such, comments about content, presentation and usability are always welcome.

Technical Specifications

The new website is hosted on a Amazon Web Services EC2 instance (type t1.micro using the stock Amazon Linux AMI) running Apache, PHP and the MySQL database server.

The site is managed with Drupal 7 using a variety of core and contributed modules. The theme is a variation of the core "Bartik" theme, modified for our purposes.

Because the administration of the content is now done entirely through Drupal, the site can be managed from any Internet-connected computer, opening the door for contributors other than the Executive Director. While not a part of the current configuration, we've made allowances for future expansion to host "mini-sites" for our local home and school association members should need and resources allow.

Amazon provides a full year of no-cost hosting for the EC2 instance type we're using, so ongoing costs for the first year of the site's operations are limited to the domain name registration and email forwarding services (purchased from; approximately $50/year).

After the first year, assuming the t1.micro EC2 instance type is still sufficient to manage the site, the monthly cost will be approximately $20/month.