The initial pandemic school closures created both challenges and opportunities for K-12 school districts with regard to communicating with their students' families. While some districts struggled to engage with parents and students, others were able to actually increase and improve the lines of communication between school and home. The University of Chicago studied the communication outcomes of Chicago Public Schools during the COVID-19 closures and found several key insights that contributed to effective communication with families.
1. Provide Multiple Communication Channels for Parents to Choose fromParents were more likely to communicate with educators when they had several options of available communication to choose from. Video conferencing provided the opportunity for parents to meet with their children’s teachers face-to-face even when they were not physically present. Districts should look to employ a communications tool that allows parents to meet virtually with teachers using video conferencing when they are unable to attend in person.
[See: Why Your District Struggles with Communication Strategy]
2. Provide Communication in the Languages of the Families You Want to ReachTranslation of messages between home and school allowed for increased communication with ELL families. Families who received communication in their preferred language were more likely to respond back to educators. Districts should ensure that their communications tools reference the preferred language of families and automatically translate messages from educators into the home language.
3. Expand Your Outreach Beyond Teachers to Include Other Staff Members Who Interact with Students
Non-instructional staff such as sports coaches, bus drivers, and librarians can be crucial in encouraging a strong home-school relationship. These ancillary support staff roles should also have the ability to reach out to parents using the district's communications platform.
4. Learn the Preferences Among Families and CommunitiesUnderstanding and fostering individual families' and communities' communication preferences will encourage strong relationships. ELL families/communities will likely prefer to communicate in written form via text message where they can benefit from translation features to support the conversation. The same might be true for families or communities where shift work is prevalent and parents are not able to answer the phone during work. Communications platforms that allow for multiple forms of communication including phone calls, text messages, emails, and video conferencing will ensure all families feel included in the conversation.