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Les Potter is currently the director of the American International School West in Cairo, Egypt. Les has over 40 years in educational leadership in the US and Egypt and most recently has been a...
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Hosting a Successful Open House

An open house for parents is now required in many districts and states, usually in early Fall. At our school, we have ours one day before school starts and it is a combination of an open house and a meet the teacher day as we are a pre-K to 12th grade school.

The question is how to showcase the event, so it becomes a positive and informative event for the teachers and parents. Something that is a positive PR tool that can improve the school’s culture and climate. Often principals do what they have always done and do not attempt to improve the event each year “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.”

There is only one chance for a good impression at an open house as this is the only time that many parents will visit the school. Revisit your open house a day or two after the event to see what you can do to improve for the next year. With technology, parents don’t have to leave home or work to go meet the teacher about concerns about their child or to ask questions about the class or school.

Most open houses are planned in the evening but meet your teacher can be during the day as well. For us, we have two, one for the elementary school and another at the secondary school but back to back in the early afternoon as many of our parents have kids in both schools.

I just want to describe in this article about the planning part and then write more about the actual program. Preparing for a successful open house begins with an assessment of the school’s culture and climate far in advance of the event. While a healthy school climate and culture can be the underlining components of a successful open house. It is a great opportunity for enlightenment as well. Just as we can observe whether someone is physically unfit or feel when a car is not running properly, parents can sense when things are not right at their child’s school by what they see and hear when they visit.

There are a number of steps involved in planning a successful open house. Some things to consider are:

  • Who will plan the event? Will it be a steering committee made up of parents, teachers and administrators or just the principal heading up the effort? Clearly define the roles and responsibilities and set up a reliable communication and reporting system.
  • What is a good date and times? Check the district and school calendar and make sure no other events are scheduled in the feeder schools that might force a parent to choose an event or at least stagger the times so parents can attend both. Don’t forget other popular events such as Monday Night Football, Wednesday in many areas are considered a church night, World Series games, and community events.
  • When is the right time to announce the open house? Send a notice home with students a few weeks in advance. Use newspapers, radio, emails, posters, webpages, message boards when possible. Give plenty of notice to parents and if you are consistent with open houses in previous years, even better. To increase attendance, some schools have homeroom and class competitions for prizes for the most parent sign ins (we used pizza party with the homeroom with the highest percentage of parents attending.

Make sure you include the following when you announce your open house:

  • What, when, time (start & end) and where
  • How the parents can get their child’s schedule
  • Where to go on campus when they arrive----are you having a parent meeting in the auditorium, do they go the library to get the schedules first, etc.
  • What parents should do if they what to privately discuss their child’s situation
  • What to expect at open house (visiting classrooms, general assemblies or both)
  • Where should parents park
  • Whether to bring their children with them
  • Will there be food, games, competitions, etc.

An open house should no longer that an hour to two hours in length. I will discuss in another article about the program itself.


Les Potter, Ed. D.

American International School West
Cairo, Egypt