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Open House Success! 12 Small Things That Make a Great Back to School Event

How To Host a Fabulous School Open House Event for Back to School Season

When is Open House?

Back to school season kicks off anytime from August to September here in the United States.

For many schools, the new school year often launches with a fun event that goes by many different names: Open House, Back to School Night, Meet and Greet, and more. Regardless of what your school calls it, there are lots of easy, great ways to ensure a large turnout and fun event for families and students.

Open House is often held on a weeknight toward the start of the school year. What day your school chooses is completely a matter of preference and perhaps tradition.

In my current school district, principals get to choose which night works best for our school.

We each add our date/time to a shared calendar to prevent competing events on the same night. Families appreciate this; not having to choose which Open House to attend or cut one visit short to make it to more than one event.

Our school holds Open House the week before students return to school. We like giving students access to lockers early (lockers are a BIG deal for our middle schoolers!).

However, my previous school held Open House a few weeks after school started, once students and teachers settled into the routines and newness of the school year.

Whether your school chooses to host Open House before classes officially begin or after, this annual tradition can serve many important purposes.

What is your "why" for hosting an Open House?

The secret to planning and preparing for a great Open House event is to be really clear on why you plan to host it in the first place.

Perhaps the purpose is to:

- Introduce parents and families to teachers

- Reduce fear and anxiety among students by introducing them to their teachers before school begins

- Familiarize families with the school layout and the who's who of the school

- Share school-wide news that is important for all families to hear

- Meet families for the first time (if you're a new administrator)

Your "why" will be very important in planning your fun back to school Open House event. The goals of your Open House will help you determine how to spend your time, money, and what to promote about your special Open House event.

It's always practical to gather a few teammates together (such as counselors, administration, secretaries, and a few teachers) to talk about ideas for Open House. I like to discuss the event with my leadership team (comprised of classified and certified teammates) in the spring before we break for summer; that gives us time over summer to dream big and make arrangements.

Once you have a clear idea on your "why" for the Open House back to school event, consider including any of the following 12 tips for hosting a stellar event for your students, families, and educators.

12 Easy Ways to Host a Great Open House

1. Welcome Signs

As students and families approach the school (sometimes for their very first time, like new families to your school), aim to make it special. We write a large, colorful "Welcome to Open House!" on our signs and place them at our main entrance for the event.

One of the best ways to host a great Open House is to not assume that everyone knows their way around the place.

I'm passionate about passive signage that creates a spirit of welcome, whether we're hosting an event or it's a regular Tuesday in March. This assumption - that everyone knows where they're going - can create barriers for families, so we work hard in our school to view the place like we're first-timers on campus.

One of the first purchases I made as a principal was to ensure that our school had adequate large signage. I bought 3 heavy duty sandwich-board signs that are filled with sand. Then for $20, my custodial team bought dry erase "shower board" at Home Depot and cut it to fit each side of the sign; you can also add poster paper for each event, if that's easier. These have paid for themselves 10 times over! Here are the types I bought: