School district survey to find better ways to communicate with residents

York Suburban School District Superintendent Dr. Timothy Williams.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Communication has been a concern in some York County districts, with residents feeling as if they don't always hear about pressing issues until it's too late.

In an effort to ensure all community members — and not just parents, guardians or relatives who have the easiest access to school communications — get the information they need, York Suburban School District created a survey to identify preferences.

"The questions really center around how people prefer to receive communication from the school district," said Nicholas Staab, coordinator of transportation and communication at York Suburban.

The idea came from the district's communications committee, in which some board members said they felt not everyone was being reached, he said.

At a summer finance committee meeting, one resident remarked that some of her neighbors, who do not have children in the district and therefore do not follow its web communications, were unaware of the district's facilities study — even though it was well-documented online for months.

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And feeling out of the loop with information can affect the public's sense of district transparency, as with West York Area School District's Lunch and Learn program, implemented this year.

Parents and taxpayers said they felt blindsided by a quick-turnaround decision to approve the program after only a few board meetings — even though news of the upcoming program had been mentioned in school documents months in advance.

More:West York lunch program sparks dueling petitions

More:West York board narrowly OKs Lunch and Learn

York Suburban's survey aims to find out what people want to hear about and the best way for them to hear about it, Staab said.

School officials are allowing all local districts to participate, and the county's Twitter account shared a link to the survey, which so far has about 200 responses, he said.

The survey has 12 sections and would look at everyone's preferences while also zeroing in on the effectiveness of York Suburban's web and social media communications.

It does so by filtering responses based on what district each participant is from. That way, officials can look at answers generally or more specifically.

"Some of the questions on there we felt obviously could benefit other school districts and also give us a better understanding of the county as a whole and not just our district," Staab said.

For example, questions would be framed such as asking residents their opinion of the social media of the district in which they reside.

Staab doesn't know when the cutoff will be for responses, but the district will be discussing the survey in its upcoming communications committee meeting at 4 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Provard Education Center.