- School communications platforms shouldn’t make communicating more complicated–they should ease a burden
- The right platform can result in cost savings and can increase flexibility and consistency across a school district
- See related article: Your top 5 school-home communication challenges, solved
When our School Administrative Unit (SAU) set out to find a communications platform that all six of its schools could use across all grades, we had good reason for doing so. For starters, our administrators were using one communication system and teachers were using a completely different system.
Teachers had to create their own distribution lists, which weren’t always current. For example, one might develop a distribution list at the start of the new school year but would get a new student in January and forget to add the new parents to the distribution list.
Our middle school integrated arts instructors faced a different set of challenges, namely due to the rotation of their classes throughout the school year. Those teachers see half the school over the course of a year, or a different group every half-quarter. That meant teachers were creating new distribution lists with every new class rotation. And while those teachers were sending similar information to each new group, they’d still have to start from scratch for every new class.
To get everyone on the same page, we decided to implement the ParentSquare school-home communications platform. It started at the SAU principal level and then quickly moved to initiating teachers, athletic coaches, and school clubs on the program.
Here are five benefits we’ve seen since implementing our communications platform:
- Flexibility across buildings. The platform is adaptable for different schools and grade levels. High school teachers may use it differently than middle school instructors do, for example, and that’s perfectly okay. Teachers can turn on messaging at the high school level, but middle school teachers can use the platform in their own way. That’s because the platform is customizable for the intended audience.
- Streamlined parent conferences. The platform has also helped our district streamline parent conferences. Before, every school used a different program. Now, all teachers are using the platform’s conferencing tool. Being able to create templates for those parent conferences has been a huge time saver for teachers, who can adjust the templates while also maintaining a consistent look and feel across all communications.
- Consistency across the district. Using a single, unified communications platform also supports good consistency across all of our schools—texting is no longer part of our protocol. You’re always going to have people who want to “go rogue,” but we now have a policy in place that says this is the tool you need to be using to communicate with people. If you need to tell people that practice is canceled at three o’clock today, for example, this is the tool that you use to get the word out.
- No more manual distribution lists. Teachers who once had to add new students to their distribution lists, or build completely new lists every quarter, no longer have to do this heavy lifting. With our communications platform synced with our SIS, PowerSchool, all information added to the latter is automatically transferred into the school-to-home communications platform. It’s all taken care of for the teachers.
- Creates an accountability record. We’ve encountered some situations where parents have told us that they didn’t receive the message, but we can see right in the platform’s record that the message was sent, received, and read. We have that validation, and we can easily see when someone has opened all of the messages that we sent them.
By moving away from texts and disparate messaging solutions, we’ve also been able to introduce some convenient features that parents really like. For example, they can change their notification settings in a very individual, customized manner. The same goes for teachers, not all of whom want to receive text messages—but we want to make sure that they know when school is canceled. Because different levels of messages and alerts are sent out, the recipients don’t ever get inundated with alerts from multiple different sources.
How we ensure flexibility in our school district communications
How school-home communication combats chronic absenteeism