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School-home communication became even more critical during the pandemic—here’s how one district turned it into a key tool

5 ways a more equitable school-home communication system helped our district


School-home communication became even more critical during the pandemic—here’s how one district turned it into a key tool

The pandemic has forced districts to rethink how they communicate with parents, and things aren’t going to go back to the “way they were” anytime soon (if at all). Forced to operate remotely, and without much warning, our district knew it had to move away from snail mail as a primary mode of school-home communication and over to a more modern, fast, and efficient solution.

Fortunately, we already had a safe and secure platform for school-home communication in place before the pandemic; it was just a matter of ramping up our usage of the technology, getting parents and teachers trained on how to consistently use it, and then putting it into action.

With Aeries as our student information system (SIS) and ParentSquare tightly integrated into it, that’s exactly what we did.

During a recent Parent University session, for example, we helped parents load the ParentSquare-powered Aeries Communications module on their computers and mobile devices. One of our IT professionals reviewed and verified the number of users on the system while the district began sending out more alerts, posts, and attachments. We also reached out to families who we could tell weren’t receiving the messages and corrected all of their email addresses and took other steps to make sure everyone was using the communications platform.

Since making those moves, we’ve enjoyed five additional benefits, including:

1. Meeting stakeholders where they are. We empower our families by encouraging them to choose when and how they want to receive routine school communications. Parents and guardians can personalize their notification settings to receive all messages in one batch early each evening.

And while parents can’t override emergency announcements, the platform’s digest feature is especially helpful for parents with multiple children at different schools.

2. Translating messages automatically. The translation capability within our communications platform is a powerful tool for engaging parents across different languages. We can translate our forms, permission slips, and posts, not to mention the option for two-way translation with direct messaging. Our staff doesn’t have to speak a parent’s home language to communicate with them in a meaningful way; the platform takes care of that for us.

3. Creating attractive and engaging flyers. We can generate attractive, interactive flyers and quickly send them out to recipients. The flyers are definitely one of the coolest tools available on the platform. Currently, all of our Parent University flyers are sent using “live” links. Parents open our flyer, and instantly, there’s a link to our Zoom meeting.

4. Not needing to be tethered to a computer to use it. Not only are we no longer solely relying on sending out paper mailings and flyers to parents, but we can also use our two-way communications platform on our mobile phones. As parents ourselves, we really like how all of the important information we need is right on our phones. We just open the app and everything we need to know is at our fingertips.

5. Integrating with our student information system (SIS). This is a huge benefit because we now have a single database of reliable information to work from across both our communications platform and SIS. We don’t have to go into separate platforms to gather contact information and generate communications; it’s all in a single, unified place. More importantly, the fact that all our parent contact data is up-to-date means we know that we’re making every possible effort to let parents know how their child is doing in school and empowering them with accurate and engaging information.

To other school districts looking to modernize and streamline their own family engagement communication systems, we always suggest embracing technology and not being afraid of it. Once we walked everyone through how to use our platform, they all realized how easy it was and it really took off. We’re proud of the headway we’ve made to create more equitable and efficient communications across our district.

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