We are using cookies to give a better service experience. By using our services you agree to use cookies. Read more

All articles

Grove City Area School District

Implementation of Fall Open House Energizes Middle School Transition

Parental Engagement





Target group
January 2024
Having a team that included staff members as well as parents is really important. What we learned from each other was really critical. It helped guide our family-school engagement strategies and how to be intentional in our work together.

About the implementation

We reimagined the Open House for middle school families with the goal of parents and teachers connecting in a relaxed atmosphere and students feeling pride and excitement to show their school to their parents. A family art activity created bonding time. Teachers talked with parents, rather than giving a formal presentation. Food and treats were provided to make it feel like a family gathering.

What did you do in practice?

We took a look at our annual "5th and 6th Grade Fun Night" and really thought about how to increase parent and teacher connections. This event helps with the transition into middle school and it was important that we create a bond at the beginning of the journey. Typically we have a parent orientation night. Feedback from our team though drove us to think differently. The result was a more vibrant event that invited parents, students and teachers to connect and have fun together in our first ever Fall Open House.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

We needed to think about family-school engagement at the middle school level differently when parent involvement starts to change and the needs are different for students. We worked with our school counselor to identify the needs in our community, pairing that with info gained from empathy interviews conducted by our team. We knew if we could create authentic trust and more communication between teachers and parents that it would lead to a better educational outcome for our students.


The ideas we added to the 5th and 6th Grade Fun Night and the launch of our first-ever Fall Open House were well received by everyone! Teachers were nervous at first but appreciated the opportunities to truly connect with parents. They felt they could reach out to the parents after these events. Likewise, parents felt more comfortable talking to teachers and reaching out to the school.

Parents reached out to the school to share how much these events meant to them.
Students were excited to show off the school to their parents.
Teachers felt more comfortable reaching out directly to parents.
The inaugural Fall Open House will now become an annual event.
The family-school engagement team built fun into the process and created trust.

Learning Journey

Empathy Interviews
Our team of parents, teachers and administrators began the learning journey by conducting empathy interviews to learn more from our school community. We learned that teachers wanted to create opportunities for positive interactions with parents. Parents also wanted to strengthen the relationships between parents and teachers. And, our students wanted to feel empowered in their school experience as well as learn about different coping skills for challenges they may face.
Aspirational Statement
We needed to think about family-school engagement at the middle school level differently when parent involvement starts to change and the needs of our students and families are different. Our team collectively chose this aspirational statement to guide our work: "We will create opportunities for engagement in ways that are responsive to diverse language, cultural, socioeconomic and gender backgrounds."
Mini Hack: 5th and 6th Grade Fun Night
Each year, we host a 5th and 6th Grade Fun Night for incoming middle schoolers and students finishing their first year of middle school. Typically our teachers plan and implement the event. Our team purposely invited parents in the planning and they shared great ideas such as adding a 30min session for parents to tour the school, meet staff and the principal, and have a Q&A to address concerns, worries, etc. This created a welcoming atmosphere for parents to ask their questions in a safe space.
Hack: Inaugural Fall Open House
We typically focus on academic expectations at parent orientation but wanted to try something new. We hosted our first-ever Fall Open House, a low stress event that showcased student work, a family art activity and a scavenger hunt. There was a food truck, along with popcorn and snow cone machines which contributed to a relaxed atmosphere. Teachers and parents interacted in a comfortable setting and just talked. As we've found, these are the connections that can lead to relationship building.
What We Learned
We heard positive feedback from teachers and parents (some teachers had been nervous). This event also helped to lessen the worries that some families have about school by truly providing a no strings attached experience. Our team felt the new open house went well but we were also aware that we needed to make more connections. For example, we learned that some soon-to-graduate 8th grade families had never been in the middle school (partially due to COVID). We wanted to change that.
Other Hacks: More Family Events
We experimented with more events to better connect with families. One was "Family Engagement Night," where parents participated in a tech/social media session with Common Sense Media to discuss common concerns. We also hosted another Fun Night, focusing on the transition of 5th graders into middle school. Like the mini-hack, we addressed transition worries and intentionally made time for teachers and parents to meet each other and talk in relaxed, social conversations. "Connecting" is the goal.
Parent engagement is essential. If teachers and parents can be partners, it improves everything — for the teacher, the parents and most importantly, the students. Our big takeaway is to be very intentional in planning so that the opportunities for family engagement increase and are prioritized. This intentionality started with the team and school leadership and is now spreading to the school staff. It's gratifying that teachers are seeing positive changes in the classrooms as a result.


Nestled in western Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and Erie, and easily accessible from route 80 and route 79, Grove City Area School District encompasses the borough of Grove City and the surrounding townships of Liberty, Pine, Springfield, and Wolf Creek. The District covers 86.8 square miles, and serves a local population of approximately 17,700.

Grove City Area School District