Tips for Creating a Welcoming K–12 School Environment

Students excel when they’re in a welcoming school environment that embraces their families’ backgrounds. Use these tips to welcome and include parents and families all year long.

A welcoming school environment creates the foundation for making families feel comfortable with the school community. Everyone in a K–12 district benefits when leaders encourage positive school relationships with students, staff, parents, and caregivers. In fact, research shows that family engagement is important to student achievement and success. Parents who feel intimidated by or excluded from their child’s school environment may be less likely to engage in their child’s education and may be less able to support student success. So, let’s explore some simple ways for school and district leaders to build stronger connections between home and school. 

Reflect Diverse Family Backgrounds in Schools

To ensure that families feel comfortable engaging with the school, students and families from all backgrounds should “see themselves” throughout the school. By creating a welcoming atmosphere that champions diverse family backgrounds, schools let parents, caregivers, and students know they are valued members of the school community. 

Fall is an ideal time for schools and districts to assess how well they’re doing in creating a welcoming school environment in the first weeks of the school year, and to make any changes or improvements needed that will benefit students and families for the rest of the year. However, reflecting on how to create a more welcoming environment is a worthy endeavor for district and school leaders to take on year-round. 

Get tips to build a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for all students with our infographic, Making Strides in Your District’s Equity Journey.

Tips to Create a More Welcoming School Environment

Here is a selection of effective tips to create a welcoming school environment, any time of year: 

  • Prioritize pronouncing students’ names correctly and provide students the opportunity to share stories about their names. 
  • Ensure school forms and communications integrate inclusive language. 
  • Ensure signs are posted in students’ home languages throughout the school.  
  • Display student work on walls that collectively reflects themes of diversity and commonalities.  
  • Conduct a diversity audit of the school library collection to ensure books, resources, and programs are culturally responsive, collectively promote inclusion, and integrate global perspectives.  
  • Create learning opportunities for parents and caregivers, such as workshops on topics they care about.  
  • Gauge families’ preferred methods of communication to promote two-way communication. 
  • Communicate with families and staff about language access options. 
  • Ensure that both bilingual staff and interpreters are available to facilitate and enhance communications. 
  • Identify parent and caregiver liaisons who support fostering partnerships between families, the school, and the wider community. 
  • Create a family resource center that provides support services, programs, and engagement opportunities responsive to families’ needs. 

These are just a few of the many strategies available to districts to foster a school environment that welcomes, includes, and engages all families. Focusing intentionally on family inclusion and engagement contributes to a more positive school climate for everyone and sets the stage for students to thrive. 

— Maral Varjabedyan, MSEd, Associate Director, K–12 Education, Hanover Research 

Find out how students, parents, and educators across the country view their school climate. Download our 2022 report on the Current State of School Climate in Public Schools. 

Foster a a positive school climate and a welcoming school environment that includes and engages all parents, students, and their diverse family backgrounds

Related Content

Related Tags

Related Research & Insights

Become a client

Access the best custom research to help hit your organization’s goals. Request your custom consult below and a member of our team will be in touch.

Have questions? Please visit our contact page.

Let us come to you!

Receive industry insights directly in your inbox

Our newsletters are packed with helpful tips, industry guides, best practices, case studies, and more. Enter your email address below to opt in: