The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way in which schools around the country have operated. This includes changes to extracurricular activities, classroom protocols, and open house events.
Maggie Jackson, director of admission at Hawken upper school in Chester Township; Bill Musolf, director of enrollment management at Lawrence School in Sagamore Hills; and Abigail Steinberg, director of enrollment management at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, said that although mass changes needed to be made, they were able to make the most with what they were dealt with.
“As with the rest of the world, we had to get creative with our events this year and how families learn about Laurel,” Steinberg said. “This past spring, we launched “Laurel on Your Laptop” as part of our website, which offers families a video-series of interviews with members of the Laurel community to dive deeper into our academic offerings and signature programming so families can learn about Laurel from the comfort of their home. As we do not have visitors during the school-day this year for the health and safety of our community, most of our events have shifted to a virtual format.”
Musolf said that the online format can’t replace the benefit of doing this event in-person.
“There’s nothing like a hands-on or on-campus type of experience,” Musolf said. “You certainly get a much better sense or feel for the building, particularly when an open house might even be during a school day where the potential family candidates can get a sense of the student body and student climate.”
While technological issues can certainly arise during these events Jackson said that Laurel School was able to pull off a successful open house for their spring semester open house, which included hundreds of people.
“We were incredibly pleased with how our spring open house turned out,” Jackson said. “It was our first virtual event. I will say, it was incredibly hard. I was working crazy hours and was super stressed out just trying to ... really transition (to virtual means). Parents of prospective students were very understanding, they were appreciative of the programming. We ended up having great participation.”
Musolf said Lawrence School, which is the only school in the Cleveland area that solely serves students with special needs, has a wide area that their students and families drive from in order to attend open house. The ability to do their open house virtually this year has made it easier for those families.
“In some respects, it’s easier on the families,” Musolf said. “They don’t have to carve out an entire afternoon or drive out to the campus. For us, they’re actually connecting to Zoom from wherever they are at. Whether that be at work, at home, we’ve had some connect from their car.”
It is because of these unexpected benefits that Steinberg also believes that Zoom will be utilized to a certain extent, even after the pandemic is over.
“The pandemic has caused everyone to reevaluate how we host events and conduct meetings,” Steinberg said. “I think Zoom is here to stay for various conversations and presentations, but nothing can truly replace setting foot on campus and face-to-face interactions.”