HighWired.com, of Watertown, Mass., has laid off 61 employees—roughly 40 percent of its work force—”as a result of refocused business strategy and a potential acquisition,” according to public relations manager Kara Kilpatrick.

The layoffs came as HighWired.com said it would move from a free to a fee-based model for its online community-building services for high schools. HighWired’s current revenue streams, which haven’t been profitable enough, include advertising, sponsorships, affinity programs, and content syndication.

To offset the inconvenience of a subscription fee for users, the company said it is looking to enhance its current services by providing a “whole-school” solution that will be sold to high schools.

“We will enhance our existing School Community department and supplement it with a potential acquisition that provides the back-end technology infrastructure necessary to sell a whole-school solution,” Kilpatrick said.

This solution will include the types of web site building tools that teachers currently use, as well as administrative features such as online gradebooks and attendance tools, Kilpatrick said. It also will include enhanced classroom resources, such as lesson plans, supplementary content for class projects, and better homework editing capabilities.

In order to adapt its model, the company is “in the process of acquiring a leading company that provides the back-end technology infrastructure necessary for a total school solution,” said Kilpatrick. She would not disclose the name of the company that HighWired hopes to purchase.

As HighWired changes direction, it will drop its HighWiredSports.com service, which enabled high school athletic teams to post rosters, schedules, and scores online.

HighWired.com’s current network includes more than 13,500 users. Company officials say they have not yet heard from any users who intend to discontinue their service when HighWired moves to a fee-based model. According to Kilpatrick, pricing has not been set but will vary according to the size of the district.

“While these decisions were difficult ones, we strongly believe they will enable us to achieve our objectives and sustain our company as a profitable one going forward,” she said.