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As we all work to address the fear, confusion and changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we clearly and consistently communicate with our stakeholders - from parents, to educators to our local communities.
As school communities, we are dealing with an unprecedented event - one that evolves on a daily basis. As you learn more from your local health officials and other official sources, do not lapse in communicating with your internal school stakeholders and on your public interfaces. Create a regular schedule of communications that your stakeholders can count on (including regular updates to your website homepage/designated COVID-19 webpage), then add in time-sensitive communications as they come. Ensure that your stakeholders have a designated place or source to direct questions, and be ready to provide clarity quickly.
Accessibility is a must at this time. Your first priority should be direct communication - like email - with your families and school employees. Your second priority should be to clearly communicate on public spaces - like your website and social media channels - on the actions and precautions your school is taking. While there is a constant stream of official statements and memos being shared by official sources, it's our job as communicators to humanize that information for our people. Break down the key facts in simple terms, and be sure to clearly communicate how new mandates affect families and employees.
The media and social media space is FLOODED with COVID-19 fears, changes and effects - and the suggested social distancing guidelines have most of us caught in an echo chamber of bad news. So it's more important than ever that we continue elevating the voices of our students, families and educators. Whether it's showcasing creative learning opportunities of simply demonstrating the dedication of your staff in providing things like meals or sanitation service, the public is starved for good news right now.
As we continue to see the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grow across the state, it is critical that schools are prepared to communicate with their families and the public if and when a confirmed case pops up in their school. Create a strategy to share the news first with your families and staff, then with the broader public. Make sure to communicate the date that the confirmed case was received, the school/campus where the afflicted student/staff attends, and your action steps to address the concern. Check out a sample "confirmed case" letter here.
Between sending out email communications to families and staff, posting to social media, communicating with the media, and making website updates, the rapidly-evolving stream of updates that demand action can easily become overwhelming. Identify the people on your team who can fill these key roles: social media reporter(s), website liaison, public spokesperson and email coordinator. Ensure that these people have an easy communication channel where they can quickly devise update strategies and wording. Additionally, be aware that your school staff and team of educators may receive questions from students and families - make sure they have resources on what to say during this time.
The National School Public Relations Association, in partnership with Blackboard, is publicly sharing the following tips, resources and best-practice examples to support all school communicators, everywhere, in delivering responsible communications that support families, educators and educational systems during the COVID-19 crisis.
This resource highlights some of the ways school districts may choose to communicate about COVID-19. Always consider your school’s policies, codes of conduct, local community needs, and your local climate as you address the
information needs of your stakeholders.
As of today, there have been few reported cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in U.S. public schools. However, as time goes on, it’s likely that increasing numbers of school districts will need to address confirmed cases. Below is a response plan for communicating with district stakeholders if the situation arises.
Hear from Peri Lynn Turnbull, Chief External Relations & Strategy Officer for the National Alliance, Tricia Blum, VP of Business Services at Charter School Capital, and Janet Johnson, Chief Growth Officer at Charter School Capital on key strategies for communicating about the COVID-19 pandemic.
See how the South Lyon Community Schools district addressed a confirmed COVID-19 case in their school community with families and staff.
Email MAPSA with additional FAQ's, or register for our weekly COVID-19 Charter School FAQ webinar, where we convene charter school leaders, authorizers, management companies & stakeholders to discuss developments on the COVID-19 issue as it relates to charter schools.
Our next webinar will take place on Thursday, March 26 @ 10AM.