When school districts need to reach families and residents about news, updates and important alerts, they face a growing number of methods to connect with them. That forces them to make decisions about where to focus their energy.
Districts communicate through newsletters, social media, calls, emails and even apps. Officials say using a wide variety of communication methods seems to work best, so as new methods emerge, districts continue to distribute information through more traditional channels.
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“Even school districts that are really good at (communication) can never really get enough,” said Brad Ritchey, Milton-Union Exempted Village School District Superintendent. “Most of the time residents or people that follow organizations are always looking for more. No matter how much you do, you can never have enough.”
Brookville City Schools Superintendent Tim Hopkins said his district must communicate to people across a wide range of ages, which makes communication “an interesting and trying task.” The district uses as many forms of communication as possible.
“We have kids raising kids and grandparents raising kids,” he said in an email. “They all get their communication through such a variety of methods that we are trying to learn the most efficient and cost-effective tools to use.”
With so many communication options available, schools use different techniques to determine what works best. Fairborn City Schools uses Google Analytics to see which platforms are reaching parents. Other districts, including Centerville, Oakwood and Mad River, have surveyed parents about their preferences.
“A brief glance at the responses shows that they are most likely to pay attention to information received via email, phone call or text,” Centerville City Schools spokesperson Sarah Swan said.
Most school districts still distribute some information in print format, often as newsletters or as press releases distributed to local newspapers. That’s because older residents find information that way, Fairborn City Schools spokesperson Pam Gayheart said.
There has been a push among schools to post more information on social media, where younger parents already get news and information, said Jay Smith, deputy director of legislative services for the Ohio School Board Association.
“Not everyone is just reading their emails and not everyone is just reading the papers or what’s in the mail,” Smith said. “A lot of that information is getting posted on various forms of social media.”
Milton-Union developed an app last fall , in part to alert users to important announcements such as school cancellations through push notifications.
“The informal feedback that we’ve gotten is that people think that it is the best thing ever,” Ritchey said.
Despite the district’s efforts to inform parents about the app, Ritchey said not all might know about it or have it downloaded. Especially important information from the district tends to go to all available mediums — automated calls and text messages, social media and news releases to media outlets.
Some districts are also trying to find new ways for their community to reach them. Chris Piper, who started as Troy City School District’s superintendent at the beginning of August, says one of his main goals is making sure residents and parents have opportunities to give the school feedback. He is looking into using focus groups, surveys and open meetings to increase public feedback.
“Honestly, we don’t hear much from our public right now, unfortunately,” Piper said. “People do call us if they have questions, but that’s pretty rare.”