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Using Online School Calendars to Promote Your School

We all live by our calendars these days. That includes the parents of your students. So, what can you do to make these parents' lives easier and keep them involved with their child's education at the same time? Yep, you guessed it. Create and manage an effective school calendar!

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. The effectiveness of your school website calendar depends on how easy it is to access, whether the information is current and reliable, and how simple it is to integrate with their own calendar events and schedules and sync with their phones and devices.

Your school calendar can be the most valuable tool to connect with parents, so give your school calendars the attention they warrant.

Start with the basics

Some recommended basic requirements

There are a few calendar features we recommend for both private and public calendars (the online kind):

  • A calendar that works on all devices, meaning it is mobile-friendly with an intuitive menu structure
  • A calendar that automatically loads the current month, with the capability to browse to future and past months
  • A calendar view that lets you show the events in either month or week format
  • A calendar that lets you add categories or groups (to customize the calendar view for user interest)

Keep that calendar current

The first priority is your calendar content. It must be current. It must be consistent. It must be reliable. Parents need to be able to count on the school to provide them with a resource for all the events and activities that affect their children's lives and education. 

This pretty much rules out the old-school PDF calendars that would be out of date before parents could get them printed from the school website. It might be helpful to provide a PDF version for download (assuming it is kept current), but it should not be the only version available.

It must be an online calendar that can be updated on the fly and as frequently as necessary. 

Keeping your school calendar updated

Calendar update tips

Here are some tips for keeping those school website calendars current, regardless of the calendar software your school uses:

  • Include all annual recurring school events, school holidays, term dates, testing dates, early release days, governing board meetings, parent/teacher conferences, etc.
  • Continue to update your school calendar data as the year progresses with sporting schedules (which will vary by season and team), drama performances, music concerts, fundraisers, assemblies, school field trips, etc.
  • Link to other schedules for convenient access to lunch menus, sports team schedules, club meeting schedules, etc.
  • Link to pages and forms on your school website that provide parents with information and sign-up forms as parent volunteers, parent/teacher meetings, etc.
  • Use your school calendar to coordinate social media posts through the various social media channels. Regularity and consistency will reinforce your reputation for up-to-date information across all channels, from social media platforms to the school websites and calendars.
  • Follow-up those important events with a news article about it, adding photos of the activity, outcomes, successes, and the educational purpose for the event. Don't miss these great public relations opportunities!
  • Link to your calendar events from your social media posts and vice versa to provide more detailed information and generate interest in upcoming events.

Regularly updated content keeps parents engaged. You develop trust and provide consistent transparency when your school website is a reliable resource of information. The school website calendar is a primary resource in making that happen.

Reach out to your staff, on a regularly scheduled basis, to ask for ongoing input for the various grade levels, extra-curricular activities, clubs, and events. Each staff member will have a different perspective and can add information that might otherwise be overlooked unless encouraged to submit to the website and calendar.

Remove outdated information

It should go without saying, but we're saying it anyway: you need to remove that out-of-date information. There is nothing that screams you are not paying attention or aren't all that interested in your parents' needs as leaving old information on your website and the calendar. 

Many website software platforms provide the option of automatically removing information from the website when the event expires. If your platform doesn't allow this, then be sure you set up reminders on your personal calendar to remove dated information manually. 

Old information not only gives parents bad information, but it may also provide them with the wrong impression of your school, your priorities, and its management.

Most calendar software will dim or change colors for past events, so there is no need to remove those from your calendar. This is actually useful for archiving events and keeping records of some of the amazing things happening during the year.

Easy access

Make school calendar access easy 

One goal for your school website is to make everyone's life easier. That means helping parents coordinate their lives with their children's schedules. By doing this you will improve communication and parent engagement—possibly helping them be better parents as well.

Let's begin by making your school calendar easy to access. What does that look like?

Responsive design

I don't know about the rest of you, but I have become completely dependent upon my personal calendar. If something doesn't make it there, it doesn't happen. This is true of today's parents and with multiple children in various schools—their schedules can become quite challenging. 

No parent wants to miss that class concert where his or her child has a one-line solo for which they've been preparing for a month. Your school calendar is critical for engaged parents.

So, start with making it easy to get to from their phones and other devices, which requires your calendars to be a mobile-friendly, responsive design. A responsive design simply means that regardless of the device your school website or calendar is viewed on, the site will adapt to the device's size and layout. 

Your site users shouldn't be required to zoom in or out to get to the information they are seeking. Not only must your website be responsive, but your calendars must be near the top of your responsive layout so they can find them with minimal scrolling.

One worthy goal is to make sure parents can get the information they need within three clicks. Your school community expects to find the information they seek quickly. A fast-loading website with intuitive navigation will make that possible.

Integration with personal calendars

Since we all depend upon our online calendar for keeping us sane or at least to appear sane (and organized), being able to integrate the school calendar with our personal calendar has many benefits. Parents should be able to add selected school events on your online school calendar to their personal calendar. 

There are a variety of ways to add a calendar or selected events to your own calendar, but one of the more common ways is through an iCal file. The calendar software we use here at School Webmasters provides just such a link right on the school calendar itself.

Create customized views

Customized views

Different parents will have different calendar interests depending on what ages and grade levels their students are in and what activities they are involved with. While a district's master calendar is often massive, a school calendar that lets parents customize the version they view can exclude everything except what they care about. Then it becomes a useful, in fact, an invaluable tool.

For example, the calendar we use for a majority of our schools lets users select checkboxes that provide them with a color-coded, customized calendar view where only the events they are interested in are displayed. 

The parent of a third-grader may not care about the high school football schedule, but as their children matriculate through the school system, they also need to be able to adjust the calendar view for their changing needs.

Even if the calendar software you're using is an embedded Google Calendar, you can copy and paste this into another calendar, which will automatically grab the data. 

I personally use Google calendar for my personal and my corporate schedules, and integrating events is a snap (okay, it is actually a click or two).

This is a thoughtful way to make the lives of your parents (and students and staff) a bit easier. They'll thank you for it. Well, maybe they'll only think their thanks, but you'll know in your heart you've done the right thing to improve your user experience and your website usage.

Create reminders

Reminders for important events

Some calendar software programs will also let site users set up email reminders for specific events. This calendar tool could be used for a single activity or event and is user-friendly to ensure they are kept in the loop. Other visitors, like grandparents and community members, would find this extremely helpful.

Making communication easy for your target audience and helping them stay current with what is happening at your schools is just good public relations and outstanding marketing. 

Sharing important information is one of the main roles of good communication, and when you publish and promote what is happening at your schools, you are achieving that goal.

Make your school calendar a priority

Is your school calendar a priority?

If not, it should be. It's as simple as 1,2,3:

  1. Create a master calendar (from all schools, clubs, activities, sports, fundraising events, etc.) including the recurring and those added-throughout-the-year events).
  2. Post everything you have on your school's calendar online and integrate them into your social media calendar. If you have a marketing team, give this task to them so they can coordinate these events with social media posts. If School Webmasters manages your website, we'll do all of this for you, including your social media. We'll also highlight important events on your news page and add those ever-popular home page teasers.
  3. Send out monthly staff reminders to continue to gather additional calendar events and activities to keep that calendar up to date.

We hope you'll take what we've shared here and apply it to your school website and to your school calendars. 

However, if you currently can't or don't have the resources (either the technology or human resources), we hope you'll give us a call here at School Webmasters and let us help you do it right. 

Whether it is school web design and hosting, website management, or a bit of public relations help, we've got you covered. Oh, and yes, we take care of those ever-important school calendar best practices as well!

For more tips on school website best practices, check out these blog articles:

Website redesigns done right

What makes the best school websites (Part 1)

What makes the best school websites (Part 2)

What was your website hired to do?