Your facilities are funded by taxpayer dollars. Here's how to show your community where their money's going.
This article is even better when paired with the companion discussion guide.
Marketing your school district to prospective students, parents, and employees doesn’t always have to be time-consuming or expensive. One effective way to entice new students and teachers to your district is by showing off your schools—not just talking about them. Your community needs to see where their children will be learning, and, oftentimes, where their tax dollars are being spent. Whether on your website, on social media, or in person, giving your stakeholders a good glimpse of your schools can earn you trust, interest, and even enrollment.
There are several ways to showcase your school buildings, from hosting open houses for your community to giving virtual tours of your campuses online. Photography and videography, of course, are the easiest and most efficient tools for universal access and appeal. Here, we’ll highlight a few school districts making sure their communities know exactly where they’re learning, working, and thriving.
Show them who you are.
If you’re going to show off your schools, you’ll want to present them from their best angles, in their best light, and through a lens worthy of your stakeholders’ eyes. For an effective example of using photography to highlight your school buildings, look no further than Tennessee’s Cleveland City Schools. When you visit their website, you’re immediately greeted with high-quality photographs of every school in the district.
These aren’t just snapshots either—they’re professional-quality photos that take both lighting and composition into account. What could be more inviting to prospective students or staff than sunlight shining on the beautiful facade of a school like Cleveland High?
It’s important to remember that you don’t necessarily need to hire a professional photographer to get high-quality images of your schools. With a little practice and the right smartphone, you or a member of your staff can capture shots that elicit the kind of emotional reactions you desire from your audience.
For a quick guide to taking your own high-quality photos, read “Capturing the Moment,” from our Fall 2021 edition of SchoolCEO.
On their social media, Cleveland City Schools goes one step further by using high-quality video. One post on their Instagram account, for instance, takes viewers on a video tour of the district, turning the camera on everything from classrooms to science labs to stadiums and auditoriums. The short video includes background music and a narrator who details some of the district’s history while also highlighting its educational facilities.
Show them who you’ll be.
Of course, showcasing your school buildings and campuses to the public also helps you earn and keep their trust. Most school districts rely on funds from bond initiatives to build their facilities, so provide your community with construction updates. This isn’t just a courtesy—it’s also great marketing and a way to let your supporters see the impact of their votes.
Highlighting your buildings—whether construction is complete or not—is making good on a promise. Your community gave you tax dollars, and you’re using them to good effect. This will not only build trust, but could very well help you pass your next bond. Your supporters can see how you’re spending their investment dollars, while prospective students and staff can see what your district has to offer.
Mora Public Schools in Minnesota, for example, shares construction photos with weekly updates of ongoing projects, all under one tab on their website. The district’s “New Construction” page also features artist renderings of future school buildings, as well as a community engagement presentation detailing the design process, key milestones, and construction progress for specific sites.
In Illinois, Barrington School District 220 has set up a page they call “Build 220,” with custom menus that allow visitors to toggle between specific school sites for updates, designs, photos, and other information. The “Build 220” tab can be found on the district’s homepage, right where any visitor can see it. A user-friendly and easily accessible page like this one is a perfect way to prove that your district is a thoughtful and trustworthy steward of your community’s investment.
Your students and their families will see your school buildings in real life, while others in your community—especially those who don’t have kids in the district—may not. But those community members without direct connections could be the swing votes that make or break a bond.
In 2019, Plainview ISD in Texas passed their first facilities bond since the 1970s, totaling $76.7 million. The district not only has a bond page on their website, complete with drone footage of ongoing construction, but has also come up with some unique ways to introduce the Plainview community to their new elementary schools.
Going well beyond simple ribbon cuttings, Plainview ISD has plans to share their new buildings as often as possible. “Something really neat that we’ll do next year is invite the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, and Soroptimist Club to use our new school conference rooms and spaces for a special event or occasion. They’ll host meetings or events in the facilities that they were a large part in helping fund,” says Plainview superintendent Dr. H.T. Sanchez. “We’re not going to rent out space for these special occasions —we’re going to give out space because we want people to come in and see our buildings.” The district will also partner with local YMCAs to share their new facilities and will host community open houses throughout the year. Establishing your schools as shared community spaces can pay dividends, both in gaining support for future projects and in increasing family participation and buy-in.
It may be difficult to match the enthusiasm your staff and students have for your district’s new buildings. But, by sharing your progress with your community in creative, inviting ways, you can help grow advocates for your district, and, ultimately, for the students you serve. By simply showing the world where your students learn, you’re building hype—and support—for your schools.
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