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Schools showcase the benefits of Catholic education virtually and in person

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Catholic schools looking to showcase their institutions are adapting the open house to the pandemic. Schools are inviting families to online meetings with the principal or admissions staff; developing pre-recorded video introductions that families can view any time; or offering individual in-person visits.

Our Lady of Hope School in Potomac Falls continues to adapt its methods. During the fall 2020 open house, 15 families logged into the meeting link and viewed a pre-recorded testimonial and campus tour. Principal Mary Beth Pittman and Office Manager Angela Matzke then opened the floor for questions. 

"The virtual open house has worked better than I thought it was going to," said Pittman.

For the school’s winter open house Feb. 2, they plan on tweaking the format slightly. The school will send the links to the videos ahead of time so the online session can move right into the questions and answers. 

Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores also opted for a hybrid open house with both live and pre-recorded features. But instead of the open house being one day, the pre-recorded videos with messages from administrators and department heads were available for two weeks on the school website.  Parents were invited to participate in one of four live online panels with administrators, coaches and teachers. 

"Many times, when parents and students come to our open house, they want to talk with specific people," said Madison Collins, director of admissions. "If you run cross country you want to talk to the cross-country coach or maybe you have a specific question for the foreign languages teacher."

Over the course of the open house, the school had around 100 people participate in the panels with close to 200 views to the videos. 

"It turned out to be a really successful event," said Collins. "We haven’t finalized our next open house, which usually happens in the spring, but I think moving forward we will incorporate the virtual elements even when we are able to welcome people in person to give families more options." 

While virtual has been successful for some school communities, it’s not for everyone. Some schools have gone back to in-person open houses but on a much smaller scale.

St. Patrick School in Fredericksburg tried virtual open houses in the fall, offering prospective families individual online sessions. Despite the flexibility, no one signed up. Now the school offers individual in-person open houses that have been more popular. 

"Bringing in just one family at a time makes it that much more personal," said Judy Santay, head of marketing at St. Patrick School. "We have had great success."

Virtual or in person, pre-recorded or live, whatever ways schools decide to host their open houses this year, their goal is the same: to make sure the benefits of Catholic education shine bright. 

Kassock is a freelancer in Fredericksburg.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021