Although schools have likely been closed in your district for several weeks, it’s possible that a student, staff member or a member of your district community will test positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). If this happens in your district, it’s important to communicate quickly and accurately with your parents, students, staff and community members.
The first and most important thing you should do if you have a confirmed case of coronavirus in your schools is to start communicating — and quickly. In fact, focus all your energy on communicating.
Below we provide a response plan that references templates we have created. You may access the templates here. Please feel free to review and use these templates as you see fit. Also note that the following response plan assumes coordination with your local health department.
(1) If you have an auto-messenger service that calls and/or texts parents and delivers a message to them, use it.
This is a highly effective and efficient way to alert a wide audience in a short period of time. A sample script is included in this template document for your reference or use. Tell parents and guardians to go to your school or district’s website for more information, and provide them with your school’s web address in your message.
(2) Update your school or district’s website with as much information as possible.
You may already have a coronavirus-focused page on your website. If you don’t, create one now and keep it updated with everything you know. The Red Clay Consolidated School District in Pennsylvania offers a great example. Draft web copy is included in our templates, as well.
(3) Send an email to staff, providing them with a full list of the symptoms of coronavirus.
Explain to them what they should do if they feel ill or develop any COVID-19 symptoms. Direct them to the district’s coronavirus web page and the CDC website for more information.
(4) Send an email to parents/guardians.
Send an email to parents notifying them that there has been a confirmed coronavirus case. Let them know if student meal distribution or other resources will be affected. Include what they should do if a member of their family feels ill or develops coronavirus symptoms.
Add this message to the district’s coronavirus-specific web page.
(5) Send a statement to the local media.
A teacher or staff member testing positive for coronavirus will capture the local media’s attention, likely resulting in some phone calls from reporters. Issuing a news release or statement with relevant information about your school closure may provide reporters with the information they need to write a story and will help you to manage the influx.
You will still receive phone calls, but many reporters’ questions will already be answered. Thus, you won’t have to keep repeating yourself every time you speak with a reporter.
(6) Answer your phone and return all calls.
After completing steps one through six, you probably think you are done communicating. Think again. By this time, your office phone probably has not stopped ringing and your voicemail is full of messages from concerned parents and staff.
Make a point of contacting every person who calls you. If you need help, ask others in your office to help you respond. If you fail to return calls and answer questions and/or concerns, it could be perceived as an effort to dismiss people’s concerns or avoid answering questions.
To make this process go as smoothly as possible, create a call script that contains the answers to the most commonly asked questions. A script for this purpose is included in our template document.