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The Novato Unified School District is aggressively soliciting its deceased families to return.
For months, district staff and parent volunteer parents have used social media, school tours, YouTube videos, phone calls, email explosions, and community meetings to convince families that the district is back in business after the pandemic – in person and in Full-time – if the 2021-22 school year starts on August 17th.
The district has also hired a marketing firm, Target River Inc. The company places digital ads and videos on websites, television programs, and other media.
“Overall, this mission is going quite well with impressions and video views and reaches the Marin and Sonoma districts,” said Leslie Benjamin, communications director for the district, to the board of trustees on Tuesday.
From Tuesday, the district will also operate a stand at the farmers’ market in the city center, said Benjamin. It is run every other Tuesday by community staff and volunteers.
“The purpose and aim of these nights is for NUSD to get in touch with community members to answer their questions about the district or schools, to get in touch with families, to give each school an opportunity to share their school or program and to be more visible in the church in general, ”Benjamin told the board.
“Overall, it’s about showing a positive presence in the community and showing that we’re open and welcoming existing and new families to NUSD,” she said.
The district’s enrollment of around 7,600 fell by around 275 students during the pandemic. With the state reimbursing Novato and other similarly funded school districts about $ 10,000 per student, the decline translates into a loss of up to $ 2.75 million – a budget the district cannot afford.
“Novato County has four major budget problems,” Kate Lane, a tax advisor with the Marin County Office of Education, told the trustees. “Decline in enrollment, rising pension costs, a structural budget deficit, spending problem and possible loss of the package tax, which is to be renewed in June 2023.”
The package tax makes up about $ 4 million of the district’s revenue, Lane said. If it is not extended, Novato schools would have to lay off up to 48 teachers, Lane said.
In March 2020, in the district’s first attempt, voters rejected a vote to approve an extension of the package tax. A second attempt is not planned.
Benjamin said teams of staff and volunteers have created slogans that they will use over the next several months to “create a sense of urgency in leading positive communication.” Some of the slogans are “We Are NUSD”, “Moving Forward Together” and “Our strength is our community”.
“The principals are in the process of calling families who left earlier this year to find out their status of returning to NUSD,” added Benjamin.
The district is also running a special promotion for the dual English and Spanish program at Lynwood Elementary School. During a chaotic and ultimately unsuccessful attempt by the district to select an elementary school to close in order to save money, the program threatened to relocate or terminate earlier this year.
Parents of Lynwood and two other schools protested for weeks before the district opened on Jan.
According to a survey of more than 800 district parents conducted between May 28 and June 8 via email, SMS, and social media, the preferred method of communicating with families is email, followed by the school website and text messaging .
The survey found that 64% of families would be in favor of a custom website or smartphone app that met all of their communication needs. Benjamin said the district’s staff are working to create a custom website separate from the main NUSD.org website, specifically for families, the community, and prospective students.