Our Kids
Glen Herbert - Editor

Glen Herbert
Editor/Writer, Our Kids Media

May, 2020

How private schools have worked through the coronavirus quarantine to date has been frankly impressive. It’s not a race, of course, and to be fair, everyone was caught off guard. That said, private schools have been adept at moving quickly, being creative, and remaining highly responsive to their stakeholders.

And people are noticing. Many schools are reporting a heightened interest from prospective families, and for those offering them, attendance at virtual open houses and events has been brisk. Sheriann Heath-Johnston, director of admissions at Hillfield Strathallan College, told me that virtual open houses “were a COVID necessity, that will now become a long-term event tool in our kit for our prospective parents and students.” Elena Holeton, director of admissions at St. Clement’s, agrees. “I think we're able to reach a whole different set of people,” she told me this week during a call. “There are so many circumstances where people aren't necessarily able to come to our building, so it helps support a whole other segment of our prospective families.”

Heath-Johnston admits that, yes, there are cons to meeting online, “but I genuinely feel the rest of my new experiences are pros”:

  • “Families join in from the comfort and convenience of home; as a busy mom of two Hillfield students myself, I know this is a gift!”
  • “RSVPs allow me as the Director of Admissions to, in the last moment, ask just the right colleagues to join me on the Question and Answer Panel, and the old saying is true, the answer for one guest is likely valuable to other guests as well.”
  • “Open House visits are often an early step … [and] the ability for families to move quickly to a personal virtual meeting with our team has been well received and has provided our parents confidence to furnish applications.”

Even the offering and production of the events themselves is telling, subtly emphasizing a school’s ability to adapt quickly, efficiently, and gracefully. There are lots of great—and surprisingly varied—examples out there to look to. Hillfield has held a number of events, virtual open houses as well as personal meetings with staff and administrators. They’ve even put current student ambassadors in touch with prospective students via video conferencing for some one-on-one. Pickering College has separate online events for the middle and senior schools. Meadowridge has created a brilliant 360 Virtual Campus Tour. St. Clements did as well, and also asked student ambassadors to record videos describing some of their experiences. The responses have been exceptional, far exceeding expectations. “We put a bit of a call out,” says Holeton, “but we didn’t script anyone,  and it's been quite lovely to see what the girls came back with.”

For anyone just starting out with virtual events, Heath-Johnston offers some tips. “Keep your content bright and entertaining, we are all getting tired of being online these days, so make your Open House more than a facility tour. Be clear about the next step in finding out more, and always keep students at the heart of your presentations. Our students help organize and run the technical aspects of the event (great real-life learning) and of course sit on our panel.”

You can upload your upcoming events to your profile, and we’ll promote them via the events feed. Ironically, perhaps, given all the social distancing, it’s a good time to be reaching out, creatively, to prospective families. As I've been hearing, this isn’t a stop gap, but rather the development of a powerful tool that will still be with us when, thankfully, COVID is a distant memory.

For more ...

  • If you haven’t yet booked your Our Kids school membership for 2021 enrollment, please email us today. We’ll send you the most recent information kit and can schedule a demo call before rates increase.

  • NEW: We've launched a section for the school online profile where you can share with prospective families what learning at your school looks like now by adding a description along with a link. You can also provide your most recent updates, e.g., COVID-related ones, through the “News” section, which will be prominently showcased on your profile.

  • To support the transition to distance learning, and to manage remote platforms as they continue to develop, Microsoft has offered resources, training, and how-to guides for  IT, educators, and staff. For those resources, as well as tips and support, click here.

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