Research shows the three most common reasons offered as to why parents choose a Catholic School education for their children are: 1) A faith-based value system, allowing for the formation of the entire person; 2) Academic excellence – rigorous and challenging, yet individualized; and 3) a safe, caring and disciplined learning environment. The same applies for Christian schools. According to the Christian School Association of Greater Harrisburg, there are 10 reasons why parents choose a Christian school environment, which expand upon those three listed. You can visit this link to view them.
A security system shows demonstrates the school’s desire to create a safe community. Any program that fosters this type of atmosphere should be seen as a benefit to parents and their children, and not be looked upon as an annoyance or “just something else that must be done.”
As for an “open house” event, most public schools see it as a once-per-year evening event for parents with children already enrolled in the school to come and see what their children do on a daily basis and meet their teachers.
This is where Catholic, as well as Christian, and other faith-based and private schools can really demonstrate their difference!
If your open house is a once-a-year experience for parents interested in enrolling their children, be prepared to change that mindset – to at least FIVE planned monthly open houses for the year (preferably EIGHT), starting in September or October and continuing through April or May. This is your time to show your school to parent of prospective students (not current ones) who are considering enrolling their children for the coming school year. Set aside a day every month, invite those expressing an interest in enrolling their child to a continental breakfast with the principal, and then use the rest of the time for your prospective parents to experience the wonderful learning environments designed for their children. Time frame? How about 9 – 10:30 a.m.? That way you can get your school day underway, and be finished before first lunch happens.
Two things that must be remembered during these open houses:
- The Principal must have a person to designate as the person “in charge” of school matters during these meetings. You cannot schedule an open house with prospective parents, and then have an “emergency” which requires the Principal’s attention. The Principal needs to attend to the people who have made time in their day to find out more about your school. Leaving guests to attend to a problem that can be handled by another staff member does not demonstrate the indispensability of the Principal, but could convey a failure to prepare and plan. Preparing for this type of exercise can also be a learning experience for the staff, showing the difference between “contingency” and a true “emergency.” Of course, if there is a serious emergency where well-being is threatened, the open house can be ended immediately with apologies to the parents. Since there are additional open houses that are scheduled throughout the year, the opportunity to tour the school is simply delayed, rather than cancelled with a need to be recreated a some point later in the school year.
- Stick to the time frame! If parents have questions about the school and the event is over, that’s good! Have the parent schedule a meeting to discuss their questions in a personal interview setting. It’s another opportunity to get parents of prospective in the school, continually reinforcing their participation as members of the school community. The more they feel a part of the school community even before they officially are, the better the chances they’ll enroll their child and be an active member of the parent community.
You may be thinking, “Shouldn’t these events be done on an evening?” Not today. There are too many things today’s parents are engaged in, and they may want to judge the quality of the educational experience by seeing it for themselves, safely, of course, with masking and sanitizing (because those are safety items as well, and not an annoyance). Parent-teacher conferences are already in the evening, and putting another “outside the school timeframe” event on your teachers’ schedule just puts something else on the plate. Further, with the Great Resignation in full swing, you want to retain the one thing that makes your school different from every other school on the planet.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2021 (Original Publication Date: 20061030)