When your campus closes its doors for the quieter, summer months, too often there's a noticeable absence of campus news, stories, and communications from June through August. School may seem like a September to June operation, but we all know your school is an engaged, vibrant community that’s filled with endless stories and spirit all year long.
Summer is here—campus may seem “dead” compared to the hustle and bustle of the busy school year, but your school’s mission is still in session.
Engaging prospective parents and communicating with your families is a year-round effort. Make sure the lively community that’s showcased during the school year extends beyond the academic calendar with these ways to keep campus “alive'' during the summer months.
Summer Camp & School Coverage
When the academic year comes to a close, many schools are fortunate enough to host a variety of camps and classes to keep their school’s campus open through the summer. Specialty and summer camps and courses are important avenues to introduce your school to the external community and anyone who may not be familiar with your campus or programs during the academic year. Whether you offer an arts camp, a sports clinic, a STEM camp, or an academic studies course, be sure to promote all the summer learning and fun on your social channels and through your website. Posting daily photos, highlighting performances, and covering important milestones, like the opening and closing days, are great ways to engage campers and families all summer long.
Located near Atlanta, Westminster's Summer Camp has been the highlight of their campers’ summers for more than 60 years. Their Instagram account posts daily content that features all the exciting happenings of their summer, specialty, and sports camps. Just a quick scroll and you know their campus is alive with excitement and busy with fun activities for kids.
Promote Summertime Professional Development
As lifelong learners, teachers often use the summer months to advance their professional development with travel grants, or by attending educational workshops and training events. If your teachers are traveling on a grant, reach out and ask for updates so you can share photos on social media, or have them write a guest blog about their experience. Going abroad, immersing themselves in another culture, or diving into their areas of expertise are invaluable ways to widen a faculty member’s teaching experience. By sharing how your teachers are pursuing professional development opportunities, you’re showing prospective families that your school invests and supports your faculty all year long.
Need some inspiration? St. Paul’s Episcopal School was proud to share that during one recent summer break, their teachers collectively participated in more than 450 hours of professional development workshops, seminars, and conferences. 😮 That’s a lot of content! From drumming workshops to a multi-sensory math workshop and a project-based learning conference in Napa Valley, St. Paul’s Episcopal School shared those stories and talked about how those experiences would support faculty and further their mission.
Share Alumni News
While current students may not be on campus, your alumni are busy doing awesome things out in the world, making the summer months a perfect time to share alumni news. Has an alum jump-started their own business? Did a group of classmates get together for an impromptu backyard BBQ? Maybe a recent graduate is volunteering across the globe and has an inspiring story to share? Sharing how your graduates are staying connected, making a difference, and changing the world help reinforce the value of your school’s education.
Last August, the Brooks School cut through the summer silence with a captivating story about an alumna doing some amazing volunteer work while collecting donations to assist Beirut. Social posts helped spread the word and direct folks back to their site to read the full story and view more photos.
Gather News from Your Constituents
If there seems to be a drought of alumni news during the summer months, consider asking your community to submit their own photos and stories. Create a dedicated space on your website to streamline collecting class notes, wedding and birth announcements, and alumni news and celebrations— content that can fuel your social posts through the summer.
Ursuline Academy of Dallas uses a form for users to submit news and photos for the school to share in its newsletters and social media. Your regular newsletters or alumni outreach strategy should include a link to this form to build a library of user-generated content.
Campus Construction Updates
Hallway chatter during the academic year will most likely be replaced by constant beeps of construction vehicles during the summer. Major projects and small facility upgrades will likely start the moment the last student leaves, but documenting and sharing the progress of building renovations and facility work is a great way to stay connected with the families and students during the summer. If you’re expecting major construction, consider creating a landing page that can serve as a hub for communications, campus renderings, and progress tracking to inform and engage your community. It would be important to share information about special access to campus, changes in schedules, or even campus closures if it affects your daily summer routine. Regular communications about projects can keep families “in the know” while they're away from campus and help avoid confusion when they return to a new academic building, updated theatre lighting, or new smart-boards for the science labs. Think of this as an opportunity to build excitement!
As Singapore American School continues its major SAS Reimagined project (with the help of an amazing microsite), they’re keeping constituents in the loop about their plans for summer 2021 with news updates, including which areas on campus will be inaccessible during its summer break.
Apple Valley High School's athletic program has been tweeting the progress of its new turf field. It’s exciting to see those changes over time and think about what the next athletic season will bring, even if you’re off-campus and can’t experience it for yourself.
Send Weekly Newsletters
Consider sending out weekly summer newsletters with everything from campus updates and fall planning, to calendar dates and messages from the administration and the athletics department. You should expect lower engagement while families are off, but this approach serves as a way to stay connected and lessens the information overload at the start of school.
If you do send summer newsletters, you’ll want to post them on your site, either publicly or on your portal, so families can access current news and reference past communications. The Spring-Ford Area School District posts weekly updates throughout the year, but they keep the content coming all summer long with back-to-school information, supply checklists, school board meeting reminders, athletic information, and more.
Welcome New Teachers
As the start of school approaches, don’t forget to introduce your community to new faculty members. Orientation for new faculty usually happens in the week or so before school starts, so see if you can grab a quick Q&A with new teachers and ask what they’re most excited for this new year. Sharing a photo and a brief bio will welcome new teachers to campus and help put a face to a name during the transition.
A post on social media is a sure way to reach your audience over the summer. Landon School took to Instagram to introduce new faculty members during a #WelcomeWednesday post, profiling a new faculty member with a quick quote about joining the community.
Last summer, the incoming faculty at the American Overseas School of Rome submitted videos of themselves as a way to introduce themselves to the students and the community. The video on YouTube was a great way to hear the voices and get a better sense of their new community members.
Start an Online Social Circle
The pandemic taught us the importance of staying connected, even when we’re away from campus. Launching a summer online group, such as a reading club, is a creative way to keep in touch with friends and continue the learning.
The McGillis School started a virtual summer book club and provided age-appropriate reading lists for students. Paired with a list of discussion questions and an optional activity related to the book, it’s easy to meet over Zoom and help friends and classmates stay connected.
Keep a Countdown Until School Starts
OK, your students might not be in a RUSH to get back to campus, 😉 but consider starting a countdown until classes resume and use the last few days to build excitement. The final week of summer could be used for social posts that highlight the top seven things you can’t wait to get back to your amazing teachers, athletics, Taco Tuesdays...Remind your community of the spirit, friends, and programs they’ll be returning to shortly.
Keeping the energy and spirit of your campus alive during the summer months may seem like the opposite of a vacation, but as your families soak up the summer sun, helping your community stay connected and engaged will reinforce your school’s mission all year long. When your families do return (sunburns and all), they’ll feel like they haven’t missed a thing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 Web and Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, story-telling, coffee, and creating content that connects.