School systems have historically used traditional means for communicating with parents and community members – newsletters, take-home notes, school marquees, even the occasional e-mail. However, statistics show that a large majority of us are turning to social media for our news updates.
Digital Buzz, a blog on all things digital, posted that more than 200 million people access Facebook via their mobile phone daily and 48 percent of young people said they now get their news through Facebook.
Schools are taking advantage of this phenomenon and reaching a greater population with the addition of school Facebook pages.
“We decided that if parents, students and community members were going to be on Facebook anyway, we would meet them where they are,” said Lorilyn Harrell, principal at West Haralson Elementary School. “This allows us to provide parents with information without them having to find it.”
West Haralson Elementary’s Facebook page already has 313 “likes” and only 385 students enrolled in the school, the largest ratio of likes to students in the county system. Harrell stated that since school started, 53 percent of their “likes” have come from mobile devices, furthering the assumption that a large majority of parents are utilizing their mobile phones for communication.
Facebook reports that average users spend around 20 minutes each day on the social network site, and in one day more than 1 million links are shared, 2 million friend requests are accepted, and almost 3 million messages are sent.
In Haralson County, Internet access has typically been limited for low-income families on fixed budgets. Combating the limited access for PC access in their homes, parents are now using their cell phones to view social media sites and e-mails.
Brian Ridley, principal at Haralson County Middle School, sited two reasons for adding Facebook updates to his list of daily responsibilities.
“For one, we know that parents and students are on Facebook every day and it is a fast and easy way to receive information,” said Ridley. “But number two is that it is free.”
The middle school uses Facebook to update its “friends” on school menus, test dates, Title I information, athletic schedules, and much more.
Haralson County High School posts regularly during their football games and other sporting events updating those who couldn’t be on campus.
“We have embraced Facebook this year,” said Haralson County High School Principal Topher Burnes. “It is second nature to our students and parents and a natural fit for our communication needs.”
The high school started its Facebook campaign this year with regular updates on policies, sporting events and extracurricular activities, opportunities for parental involvement, and student life.
Ann Dale Pilgrim, parent of a recent graduate and current freshman at Haralson County High School, loves the interaction she is seeing from the school system’s Facebook campaign.
“I think Facebook is a great way for the schools to post upcoming events and make parents aware of happenings going on in different areas of the school,” said Pilgrim. “I think this will lead to a more diversified student body and give parents more opportunities to participate.”
Last Friday, the school hosted its first Facebook Friday, where pictures were posted throughout the day chronicling the typical daily events of a Haralson County Rebel. Students can be seen on the school’s Facebook page dissecting hearts in human anatomy, reciting some Shakespeare in literature, and hanging out with friends before class.
Schools also use Facebook as a communication medium to receive feedback on posts, events or occasional surveys. West Haralson Elementary School asked for parent feedback on their conference experience after the first parent-teacher conference earlier this year. Haralson County High School asked parents to comment on what was good at the school and what needed improvement. Buchanan Primary School even linked its yearbook sale to its Facebook page, reminding parents to purchase.
Tallapoosa Primary School regularly reminds parents of upcoming school events and fundraisers, utilizing the immediacy of real-time posting.
“Parents don’t like long, lengthy letters in the backpack,” said TPS Principal Jentsie Johns, “We post short blurbs about upcoming events that most parents get instantly right on their phones.”
“There seems to be a big gap between the bus and the house that notes seem to get lost in,” said Christie Fisher, parent of students in Buchanan Primary School and Buchanan Elementary School and a teacher of special needs students in the system. “I love being able to access information on the schools’ pages about school activities at any time. I also like all the pictures posted of the students and faculty. It really keeps parents engaged and be a part of the entire school.”
Parents, students and community members are encouraged to “like” each school Facebook page to receive updates about all activities going on in the system. Visit www.facebook.com to search for each school’s page.