STRATFORD—While virtual open houses and online campus tours are common practice among universities, they are rare among elementary schools. However, during these unprecedented times, a Catholic elementary school in Stratford found themselves in the unknown territory of live stream marketing.
St. Mark School in Stratford recently hosted a Facebook Live Pre-K Open House when the coronavirus pandemic prohibited them from opening their doors to prospective families. The virtual event attracted over 1,000 viewers in just one week!
In late February St. Mark School announced that, due to popular demand, they were expanding their preschool program capacity from 25 to 40 for next year. St. Mark School Principal Melissa Warner explained, “We are making this change to best accommodate the increasing desire of families working or living in the surrounding area.”
The school planned a Pre-K Open House for March 18th and invited registered and prospective families to come see the larger classroom that would accommodate both a full-day Pre-K3 and PreK-4 program. However, on March 12, Superintendent of School Dr. Steven Cheeseman announced all diocesan schools would close effective March 13 to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19.
With just five days until the Preschool Open House, St. Mark administrators had to decide whether to cancel the Open House indefinitely or proceed with a Virtual Open House. Principal Warner remarked, “These are unprecedented times for sure but we must look for positivity and light in a time of uncertainty.” The school decided to live stream Pre-K Director Julie Larracuente explaining the expanded preschool program, giving a virtual tour of the new classroom and taking questions from live viewers.
Larracuente is not on Facebook but agreed to host a Facebook Live Open House. “I’ll be honest, not having a Facebook account, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into,” Larracuente remarked. “Of course I agreed because it was for the greater good. Sharing some good news in times like these is sure to be a nice distraction to families with young children.”
At the end of the 12-minute live stream open house, Larracuente answered many questions submitted by the audience. Many of her current Little Lion preschool students tuned in with their parents to see their teacher, hear her voice and submit personal greetings in the form of live Facebook comments.
“It wasn’t as scary as I thought,” commented Larracuente. “Seeing my preschool families join the live stream gave me a certain comfort that I can do this. I could tell it meant a lot to them.”
Since the Facebook Live Open House, Larracuente has been delivering daily recorded story times on Facebook. “We are a family. We will get through this together. We must stay connected in every way we can and I am encouraged to find creative ways to do just that.”
St. Mark School is a Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School of Academic Excellence and a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited school, serving students in Pre-K through Grade 8. For more information, visit stmarkschool.org or call 203.375.4291. For the Facebook Live feed, please click this link.