One of the perks of small schools and daycares is the community. The small class sizes of private schools, preschools, and nurseries make it possible for families to get to know one another and form connections with administrators and educators. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to stay connected with families. No longer can teachers chat easily with parents at drop-off and pick-up. Class parties and field trips are canceled. Major school events are postponed.
Without the typical ways to stay connected with families, how do you get to know parents? How do you prevent a family from falling through the cracks? If you want families to get a sense of your school’s culture so they feel comfortable re-enrolling, you must find ways to stay connected with families even during this challenging time.
Use this list of 12 tips to help you stay connected with families and improve your communication for 2021.
1. Take Advantage of Social Media
Social media has proven to be an effective means for connection during COVID-19. According to a survey of 4,500 people by Digital Commerce 360, “Social media usage is way, way up. The majority of respondents agreed that their social media consumption (72%) and posting (43%) have increased during the pandemic.”
Since so many of your parents (and potential parents) are using social media, you should be, too! Post regularly to your social media sites. In addition to posting pictures, you can use services like Canva to create professional-looking digital content for posting reminders, tips, and more.
2. Send Email Newsletters
If you do not already email your parents a regular newsletter, now is the time to start. If you already send out a newsletter, consider increasing how often you do so. Services like Mailchimp make it possible to create nice newsletters for your entire school email list. Since these electronic newsletters make it easy to link to your school’s website, you can also include a “Pay Tuition” button.
3. Update Your Website
The pandemic has pushed parents to do almost everything virtually, so you need to make sure your school website is designed to meet every need. For example, have webpages for COIVD-19 related news, the payment portal, and a school bulletin board. Also, make sure you keep the website up to date with the latest news and announcements.
4. Create a Care Team
One way to stay connected with families and avoid having anyone fall through the cracks is to create a school care team. This is a group of administrators, educators, or caregivers who check in on families regularly. They take additional steps to see if there is anything families need, such as additional resources or books.
5. Develop a Family Contact Plan
In addition to the care team, make it easy for individual teachers to stay connected with families by developing a family contact plan. Use a spreadsheet that keeps track of family communication with each student. Teachers should note when they speak to each child’s parent and what was discussed.
6. Live Stream
When possible, invite parents to watch live stream events on Facebook, such as athletic events, special classes, and presentations. Even if parents aren’t able to watch the event live, they can still go to the link to watch the video later.
7. Set Up Private Online Groups
While we encourage the use of social media to stay connected with families, some families may feel more comfortable using private forums. For example, rather than posting on the school’s public Facebook page, these parents may enjoy seeing photos and commenting in the school’s private Facebook group. You may even create grade-level groups or class groups for parents to “meet” and connect virtually.
8. Celebrate Virtually
Since COVID-19 has put a damper on school assemblies, take your celebrations online. When students earn awards, share the good news virtually.
9. Send Home Kits
If you’ve canceled memorable events, such as Muffins with Mom, send home kits so families still get to participate and enjoy the fun at home. Then, ask parents to post photos of their at-home celebration on the school’s private forum or email them to be published in the next newsletter.
10. Host Online Challenges
Ask families to participate in some friendly competitions online, such as scavenger hunts or online challenges. For example, ask families to find something that represents the school mascot and post a picture of their family with it.
11. Meet with Parents Virtually
If you are unable to have a traditional open house or parent-teacher conferences, offer to meet virtually. Parent-teacher conferences via video chat are just as effective and help teachers and parents have some “face-to-face” time to get to know one another.
12. Encourage Teachers and Caregivers to Join In
Sometimes all it takes is a few people to start commenting on a post, participating in challenges, or posting photos to get more people motivated. Ask your faculty to take an active role in your online communication with families. Having parents and faculty connect online will help foster your community connections.
The 2020-2021 school year is unlike any other. But, as those in education have proven time and time again, you can rise the meet the challenge to stay connected with families during this challenging time.