Back-to-school time is about so much more than the end of summer and retail sales on school supplies and kids’ clothing. The start of a new school year presents a unique opportunity to deliver to your community optimistic messages about what’s in store for a successful year ahead.
Make the most of this time of year with a thoughtful plan to welcome students, families, and staff – including those who are returning and those who are new to your schools. Develop your key messages, and customize them for a range of uses, including:
- Remarks at opening events,
- Letters, emails, newsletters, and automated phone calls to families and staff,
- Video messages,
- Interviews and outreach to the press,
- Website content,
- Social media posts, and
- Signage in schools and central offices.
Here are seven message points to consider…
- We’ve had a productive summer.
Highlight examples of teachers and administrators engaged in professional learning while school was out of session. Share stories about summer programs in both academics and enrichment, and emphasize their effectiveness in reducing summer learning loss.
- We’re ready to open our doors.
Acknowledge the efforts of your staff to prepare classrooms and buildings for the reopening of school. If possible, tally your investments in facilities repairs and renovations over the summer to underscore your commitment to safe, clean learning environments.
The new school year is also a great chance to remind the community about the complexity of operating a school district, with facts and figures – possibly displayed in a compelling infographic – about the size of your school bus fleet, the volume of breakfasts and lunches served daily, the number of computers, tablets, and other instructional technology available to educators and students, and more. These “Did you know?” type of facts make great social media content.
- We’re making some exciting new investments this year.
After hard-fought budget battles to infuse schools with new resources, don’t forget to celebrate the outcomes at the beginning of the year. Are you opening any new or renovated school buildings? Rolling out a new curriculum? Launching a new program or initiative? Tell families and staff what these investments mean for student success.
- We’re delighted to welcome new faces.
Back-to-school time can be particularly challenging – even terrifying – for children and adults alike who are new to your schools. Take the time to welcome new students and staff, and encourage returning members of the community to help the new folks get oriented and feel at home.
- We have a lot of important work to do.
There’s no better time than the beginning of the school year to remind the entire community about your collective goals and objectives. Start the year off on the right foot by reinforcing the “big picture” that you all are striving to achieve – ideally including high achievement among all students, closing achievement gaps, and readiness for college and career success. You may have more specific goals or particular targets and metrics in place; link to these on your website for those who need a refresher.
- We’re all in this together.
Set the tone right from the start about the importance of teamwork. In particular, send a clear message about strong home-school connections, and about parents as essential partners in student success. Encourage ongoing communication between educators and families, and highlight specific ways parents can support their child’s education in school and at home.
- We’re going to have fun!
Don’t let school become “all business.” Emphasize that great teaching and learning should be joyful. Students in particular sometimes need to be reminded to have fun while gaining knowledge and skills. Convey the joy of education with images of smiling kids in classrooms, athletic fields, and performance stages.
Finally, remember to personalize your message whenever possible by drawing on your own experiences. Particularly when speaking at back-to-school events, consider sharing memories about going back to school as a child yourself, or getting your own children ready for a new school year. These personal anecdotes – especially if they are humorous – can help break the ice.
Best of luck getting the school year off to a positive start!