Much in our society has changed over the past 10 days. “Social distancing” has been implemented across the United States and nearly all K-12 schools are closed nationwide.
Parents, students and staff are looking for guidance on what they should be doing while school is not in session. This includes providing updates on e-learning and making sure families know about the resources (such as meal services) available to them while school buildings remain closed.
While many schools are now officially closed for the next 2-4 weeks, the closures could last much longer than that. In fact, many states may end up canceling the remainder of the school year.
Engaging parents and guardians
Now is a good time to communicate with parents/guardians about the following:
- How students can continue learning during the school closures: What is allowed by law and how e-learning looks varies considerably from state to state. In the past few days, we’ve seen impressive efforts by teachers to connect with their students digitally, whether it’s through providing optional materials or something as simple as posting videos of themselves reading a short story.
- Resources (meal service, online learning, etc.) available to students and families: This includes what parents need to know right now and making sure they understand that this is a fluid situation. As more resources become available, you will need to continually update them.
- How everyone can play a role in preventing the spread of coronavirus: For social distancing to be effective toward preventing the spread of coronavirus, we all need to take part. Don’t be afraid to overdo this. Young people in particular need to hear these messages.
School leaders should also be prepared to field questions from parents, such as:
- When will we know if school closures will be extended?
- (If applicable) Why can’t the school district provide e-learning to students?
- What should my children be doing during the time when they would normally be at school?
- Will the school year be extended into the summer to make up missed days?
While some states have provided clear answers for school district leaders, that hasn’t been the case everywhere. It is important to be transparent and be honest if you don’t have all the answers yet. In a situation like this, your stakeholders will be understanding as long as they know you are working on it and will update them as soon as you can.
Cast a wide net
When communicating with parents, use a variety of tools to make sure you are sharing messages and information with as many people as possible. We suggest using email, text alerts, news releases, social media and updates on your district website.
Many school leaders are posting video updates to social media. Video resonates in a big way. If you can record yourself giving a 1-2 minute update about the situation, it can really help to ease concerns. Video tends to spread quickly on social media and can be much more personal than an email or text message.
We hope these tips are helpful as you communicate with parents during coronavirus-related school closures. We also want to thank you for your commitment and hard work on behalf of the students in your community. We know you have been putting in incredibly long hours as you have addressed an unimaginable situation in your districts. Your leadership is truly appreciated.
Learn more and find free templates for communicating by visiting our Coronavirus Communications page. If you would like further guidance on how you can best communicate about coronavirus in your school or district, contact the Donovan Group.