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Your School's Retention Problem Might Be A Communications Problem
Connor Gleason

Have you ever wondered if some of those “goodbyes” from families might be because of how your school says “hello?”

Welcoming new families into your school community is one challenge, but ensuring they stay requires more than just a warm welcome. Poor school communications can either be the final nail in the coffin or the catalyst for families' leaving. It’s not about convincing them to stay as they’re headed out the door; it’s about proactive, ongoing, heartfelt, and effective communication for a meaningful, long-term relationship.

In a recent Niche K-12 Parent Survey, when asked what their child’s previous school could have done to improve their experience, many open-ended responses referenced “better” or “more” communication with parents, supporting the idea that when connections thrive, you can improve your school's retention rates.

Think of your school's newsletters, emails, and mass notifications as the tools that keep families feeling noticed and important from day one. Your communications form the foundation of trust and collaboration, where every update, message, and point of contact is a chance to strengthen relationships.

That’s why a planned, thoughtful, and consistent approach to school communications ensures families actively participate in your school's experience.

Let’s look at four ways to improve retention through the lens of your school’s communications tools.

1. BETTER Communication

Imagine a first-year family who receives a newsletter filled with education jargon and complex terms. They might get the gist, but there’s a chance of confusion. Clear and straightforward communication builds a bridge of trust between schools and families, and keeping messages simple, branded, and transparent will be appreciated by new families.

Independence school parent zone

Recent announcements and newsletters are archived in The Independence School's Parent Zone, a publicly-facing section of its website with easy, mobile-friendly access to helpful resources and information for parents.

Keep Reading: When Nobody’s Listening: Effective Ways To Improve School Communications

Modes of Communication

Embrace channels like emails, newsletters, parent-teacher meetings, or even a dedicated section on the school website for updates.

Mass Communications Guide

2. MORE Communication

Quantity or Quality?

While consistent communication is key, it’s equally crucial that each message brings value and avoids transforming daily emails and alerts into background noise. Ensure every message counts, whether it's important updates, regular reminders, or weekly newsletters.

Regular Updates

A well-organized communication calendar ensures regular updates or important changes, upcoming events, and policy tweaks are received. This keeps families in the loop and makes them feel valued and involved.

sun prairie communications plan

As part of your communications plan, share with parents how (email, text, voice, etc..) and when they’ll hear from you, whether through a weekly newsletter for regular updates or alerts for timely messages, just as Sun Prairie Schools has outlined in its Communications Plan.

Engagement Metrics

Keep an eye on metrics like email open rates or survey responses to ensure that communications are engaging the families effectively.

Keep Reading: Danger Ahead: Early Warning Signs of Attrition for Schools

3. MORE Personalized Communication

Understand Your Families

Every family, like every student, is unique! When families feel your school understands and knows their specific needs and preferences, it naturally enhances their engagement with your school’s communication and activities.

With families having varied preferences for how they receive information — be it emails, text messages, or mobile app notifications — offering multiple channels of communication ensures that messages are not just sent, but also received and appreciated.

Finalsite Central Mockup

For parents who are always on the go, push notifications with a link to more detailed information can ensure they stay informed without feeling overwhelmed. Communicating through various mediums—emails, SMS, or push notifications through mobile apps—helps reach families where they prefer and expect it.

Personalized Messages

Personalization tokens are bits of specific information, like a parent or student’s name, that you can sprinkle into your communications to make them feel like they were crafted just for the recipient. Creating warm, friendly, and personal messages is a small step with a big impact.

A customer relationship management (CRM) system or a communication platform that supports personalization tokens can make this task a breeze. When sending out messages, the system automatically pulls names, grades, and other specific nuggets of info, to customize each message for its recipient.

4. MORE Proactive and Timely Communication

Anticipate Families’ Needs and Concerns

Proactive communication signals that your school is empathetic and engaged in the well-being of your students and their families. So, get ahead and share information or concerns even before families voice them.

A simple heads-up about a change in pick-up zones or a forewarning about a hectic exam week can help parents and children prepare for the week ahead.

Crisis Communication

Mass notifications for schools can ensure that in times of crisis, every family is promptly informed. Whether it’s an unexpected school closure or an emergency event, with just a few clicks, a timely alert via SMS, email, voice alert, and website or mobile app notifications ensures peace of mind and timely messaging.

mockup of galloway school notification on a laptop and iphone

Now, with Messages XR, a mass notification solution from Finalsite, The Galloway School can send notifications via email, SMS, and voice, push them via a mobile app, and display them on the website—a streamlined communication process when urgent messages arise.

Messages XR Tour

Celebrating Successes

While addressing challenges is crucial, bringing good news into the spotlight regularly reminds parents of your school's positive impact on their child’s life. Actively sharing successes, big or small, can support morale and include families in your school's successes.

Key Takeaway

Your goal is to create an environment where every family feels heard, valued, and genuinely a part of the school’s journey. By adopting clear, consistent, personalized, and proactive communication, you’ll proactively retain families AND strengthen your school community with every email, newsletter, and notification.

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Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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