From the three open houses I've attended, I'd like to suggest the following to each school in the district.
- Make sure you have plenty of staff there. If your staff isn't interested in bringing our kids to the school, why should we?
- Make your PTA's presence known. Last night there were some PTA moms serving refreshments at Crosby, which gave parents the chance to ask parents questions about the school.
- OPEN YOUR ENTRANCE. This may sound like a simple one, but several parents (including this guy) were doing a comedy routine as we tried to figure out where we were supposed to enter at Ramsey Middle School. Signs that pointed to the gym (where you were supposed to enter) didn't help because they said "Basketball Game".
- Make your school look lived in. Put art, and projects, and other examples of student work in the halls. Maybe this is just my preference, and maybe it's just a factor of the school's relative age, but Ramsey still looked like nobody had moved in yet, while Noe looked lived in, and Crosby was so jammed packed with stuff that I saw the crew of Hoarders walking the halls. (I'm kidding, but they almost need an addition to hold all of the trophies plastered throughout the place.) I like feeling the history of the school and the pride in students that are represented when I walk through the halls.
- Give us a sheet of all of the in and afterschool programs you offer, uniform policy, the technology and course offerings in the school, and any other details you want us to know. This makes life easy for us. Every school we visited gave us this information verbally, but it's nice to see it in print where we can line up the schools and compare as we're making a decision. Crosby handed out a lot of materials last night, but a simple sheet of information about the school was not among them.
- Have time for Q&A up front when all parents are assembled. This allows for parents to ask questions as a complete group and helps parents hear things they hadn't thought of and might keep the school from having to answer the same question numerous times. Having it at the end of the night is fine too, but many parents have already left at that point, so you don't reach as many people with the answers.
- Don't be afraid to have a comment card at the end of the night to help you improve. From conversation last night, it sounds like Crosby redid their Open House this year into a series of small tours to help keep traffic flowing in each classroom and eliminate congestion. Given the large crowd last night, they did a great job.
- This one is for JCPS. If you renovate a school, make sure you start with the bathrooms. The one I walked in at Noe was two metal toilets away from looking like a prison bathroom. It was clean, but the mirrors, lighting, sinks, stalls, and towel dispensers all looked like they were the original issue from 1974. I loved the school, but the bathroom was the last stop before I left and it made me feel a bit sad that it had been neglected in the overhaul. Take a lesson from the restaurant business. It's much easier to keep a bathroom clean if it looks nice to begin with.
- If they aren't already, it would be nice to see the JCPS board members and JCPS senior leadership attending these open houses and making their presence known to get a feel for what parents are feeling and going through as they try to pick a school and to respond to questions.
Overall, I was impressed by what I've seen so far. We still think Noe is the best choice for our daughter, but each school has made a case for themselves. Have you been touring schools? What are your thoughts?