School closures lasting weeks at a time has been unlike anything parents, students, staff or community members have ever experienced.
Especially in the first several weeks of the closures, school and district leaders and teachers had to answer tough questions about e-learning, meal services, technology distribution and canceled or postponed events. This meant communicating frequently through email, social media, the district’s website, text alerts and phone calls.
While active communication provides tremendous value to stakeholders during this situation, it’s also important to consider the frequency with which you’re communicating and how much information you seek to convey at once.
After all, if you’re communicating about everything, you’re really communicating about nothing. Your messages tend to get muddled or lost completely if parents feel like they are inundated with a relentless surge of information.
Now that we know the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures are the “new normal,” at least for the time being, consider using a strategic approach to your communication that allows stakeholders to know when they can expect to hear from you and what information you will provide at certain times of the week.
Create a weekly communication roadmap
Below is a sample weekly communication roadmap for your review. The details are likely to depend on your district’s e-learning format and many other factors, but we hope it gives you a start for planning out your regular school- and district-level communication in these unusual times.
- Each 5th-12th grade teacher sends an email update to students on the week’s e-learning assignments, expectations, and resources.
- Each PreK-4th grade teacher sends an email update to parents on the week’s e-learning activities, assignments and resources.
- Each school’s principal sends an email to all parents, providing an update on e-learning activities and any other relevant information. This message may include an anecdote regarding how staff members are meeting the needs of students from a distance.
- Post shortened versions of the principals’ updates to social media to share with the broader district community.
- Post a reminder message to social media about food distribution, technology access, mental health services or any other resources students and families may need.
- Each classroom teacher sends an email message to students and/or parents to check in on progress and determine if any additional resources are needed.
- Post an update to social media with an anecdote about how learning continues to take place in your district.
- The district superintendent sends an email update to all parents, providing an update on school closures, meal services, events and other pertinent information. This message may also include anecdotes of how students are successfully learning from home.
- Post the superintendent’s update in full to the district’s website, ideally on a COVID-19 specific page.
- Post a shortened version of the superintendent’s update to social media to share with the broader district community.
Once you have determined your weekly communication structure, share it with your parents and other stakeholders so that they know what they can expect from you—and when. There will still be times when you must disrupt this schedule to communicate about an urgent issue, but that will be the exception rather than the rule.
Again, the above is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but we hope it gets you thinking about how you can communicate more by design on a weekly basis. The result will be greater clarity within your school community, fewer questions on the part of parents and enhanced overall trust between your district and its stakeholders.
Learn more and find free templates for communicating by visiting our Coronavirus Communication Resource page. If you would like further guidance on how you can best communicate about coronavirus in your school or district, contact the Donovan Group.