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Whipping Your School Website into Shape

A summertime to-do list that will please parents and improve enrollment

It's summer and if you're like most educators, you're enjoying the quiet hallways, catching up on piles of paperwork, and working on your summer maintenance projects. While your school is getting whipped into shape with new coats of paint and clean carpets, don't forget that your school websites needs some summer TLC as well. 

School website housekeeping checklist

It's important that your site be up-to-date so parents, students, and community members will use it as their first source of information. As the new school year draws closer, your secretaries will be busy with teacher requests and student enrollments. Give them a break and allow them to direct parents to your informative website. Ideally your website contains timely information that is updated regularly. Here are a few key items to take note of: 

  • Your Home page message. Be sure to update the message on your Home page, welcoming students and parents back to school. This is a great place to note any back to school events as well. It also signals parents that you are active and involved, because your Home page is current and welcoming (especially critical for prospective parents and staff).
  • Convenient enrollment and registration forms. Make sure these are online and that you make registration as convenient as possible. Provide lists of what parents need to present or complete and details of what the process for enrollment is.
  • Staff lists. Parents like to know how to contact their child's teacher, so be sure your staff list is updated for the current school year. Include e-mail addresses and phone extensions so parents can e-mail or leave a message. 
  • The school calendar. Members of your school community need to have access to the yearly calendar so they can plan for early release days, teacher inservice or professional development days, holidays, and parent/teacher conferences. Be sure to make a note of events, and add them to your social media calendar to send reminders for these events out through Facebook and Twitter. Parents will appreciate your help in keeping their lives organized. 
  • Supply lists. Save parents some time and money, and provide a link to each grade level's school supply list. Students are more likely to come to school prepared with the supplies they need so learning can begin on day one. 
  • School menus. Students want to know what to expect on the first day of school, so tell them! Then when they ask, "When's lunch?" as the first bell is ringing, they already know what's on the menu. 
  • Student and staff handbooks. While these are often supplied in student agendas and at welcome back staff events, having a copy online is also helpful as a backup. 

Provide helpful tips articles to parents 

While you are doing those last minute preps to get ready for school to begin, help parents do the same. Put together a friendly news article for your website with tips to help parents prepare their children for that first day of school. It might include the following: 

  • Remind parents about any forms they need to complete and turn in prior to school starting (like updating contact information or immunization records). Put any forms on your website for easy access and link to them from the article. 
  • Provide a link to school supplies students will need so parents can get prepared early. 
  • Encourage parents to move bedtime back to an earlier time a few weeks before school starts. It will make the transition from summer break to early morning rising less challenging. 
  • Give parents some suggestions about putting a positive spin on going back to school (like the fun things they will learn, the friends they will see again, and the new ones they will make). 
  • Let parents know when "meet the teacher" opportunities are scheduled, and encourage them to attend and to bring their children. 
  • Encourage parents to prepare a homework routine that includes a well-lit, quiet place to work. Suggest they establish a regular homework time without distractions from TV, the Internet, phone calls, or texting. 
  • Or, if you’d rather just have us send you our free article for your website called “Preparing Your Child to Succeed in School” e-mail us at PR@SchoolWebmasters.com, and we’ll send you a copy to post on your school’s website.

Helping parents get their students ready for new school year will also help parents know that you care about their child's success. It's just another way to improve communication and build trust—which is all a part of good public relations.

Welcome them, and mean it!

Have you considered using a section of your school website as a welcome packet for prospective or new parents? It is the ideal, convenient location.

When a family is new to the area (or maybe has children reaching school age for the first time), they will want to learn as much as they can about the educational opportunities available to them. And your school isn't the only game in town anymore. There is competition from other schools, home schools, and online schools. So, you will want to take advantage of the powerful opportunity your website provides to market to parents. Make sure you utilize your website as a way to greet and welcome new parents and students, and make finding out why and how to enroll their child an easy task. 

What to include in your website welcome packet

Create an area on your website where parents can download the information they need. You can do this by creating PDF documents that a parent can print or view online. It may be as simple as a series of links to information that is already on the website but placed on a specific page that is easy to find (like in an area under category quick links labeled "Parents" called "Welcome Packet." Or, if you have an area on your main office website called "Why Choose Us," or its equivalent, then you can also put this information there.  You want to include areas that market your school and invites enrollment.

Online “Welcome Packet” content ideas:

  • Welcome letter: from the superintendent, director, principal, or parent group president—consider adding a welcome video. 
  • School boundary and address: include website address, phone numbers, office hours, and a map of boundary areas, if applicable. 
  • School calendar 
  • Bus schedules 
  • Staff list (include e-mails, phone numbers, best ways to contact them, brief and friendly bios that are student focused—not just a list of degrees) 
  • Administrator/department contact lists (e-mails, phone numbers and extensions) 
  • Food service options (include prices, forms for free lunch programs, information about how to pay for meals) 
  • Student handbooks (can be converted into a conversational and friendly FAQ page on the website that answers the most commonly asked questions that parents and students ask). If you are unsure about what questions and answers to include, ask the secretary and the teachers—they answer the same questions over and over and can tell you what the most common needs are. 
  • School history: When was your school built? What does your school's name mean, or why was it selected? Any awards or interesting history tidbits? 
  • Quick facts: Grades taught, number of students, number of staff, student/teacher ratio, year founded, geographical miles in district (if applicable), and any other facts that will highlight your differentiators. 
  • Add some parent, student, and teacher testimonials. You can scatter these throughout the other content, on a dedicated Testimonials page, or on various pages  as graphic elements to add 3rd party credibility. 
  • Links to registration information and forms or the information about where they can get these forms. Be sure to include the information for kindergarten registration age and immunization requirements and dates for any testing for entrance. 
  • Emergency notification information: How does the school contact parents in an emergency and what are the typical processes for keeping students safe and parents informed? 
  • Parent group meeting schedules and contact to the current year's officers or leaders. Information about how a parent can become involved.
  • Volunteer opportunities and needs 
  • Links to curriculum or standards for each grade level (written with parents in mind—avoid any educationese) 

How do you welcome them?

In addition to a fresh coat of paint and clean, welcoming school buildings, make sure your school website is equally inviting. Make sure your home page welcome message is current, personalized, and friendly. Create posts for your school social media that invites, welcomes, and enthuses students and their parents back to school, with links back to your school web pages. Your website should be like a friendly smile to visitors. Roll out the welcome mat!

What is your school doing to make enrollment easy and to attract new students? We'd love to highlight your successes with the thousands of administrators who are blog subscribers! Comment below or e-mail me at Bonnie@SchoolWebmasters.com, and we'll toot your horn for you!

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