What schools need most to reopen amid COVID-19: Communication

An online communications portal can be used to share how schools are implementing CDC guidelines, and also be used for remote learning and other purposes
Amy Jeffs is Vice President of Status Solutions.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the country, schools are beginning to look to the future and prepare to explore resuming classes again this fall. Under traditional circumstances, administrators have a lot to consider when it comes to how to best protect their staff and students, but now there is even more to plan for. With recommendations from the CDC, schools are challenged with preparing for a different environment than before. To implement many of these new safety measures, they will need to have an easy way to coordinate frequently with students and students’ parents/guardians.

Many of the CDC’s guidelines to reopen this fall involve the need to communicate clear information. For instance, the CDC states that it’s important to educate staff and families about when they/their child(ren) should stay home and when they can return to school, to teach proper hygiene, such as handwashing and respiratory protection, and to have families be aware of and check for COVID-19 symptoms as well as provide a way for them to report to the school if they or their children are experiencing symptoms, or if they have been exposed to someone with a confirmed or suspected case.

One-stop Communication

One of the ways in which schools currently communicate information with parents/guardians is through mass emails, texts, and/or automated phone calls. While this is efficient for short, one-way communication, it’s not as useful for communicating lengthier information and having a two-way dialogue, which will be necessary to follow CDC guidelines.

Read: Expect heightened anxiety, behavioral issues in returning students

As an alternative, schools can set up and provide a web-accessible school communication portal where parents, students, and teachers can access school updates, class information, participate in video conference calls, and view informational videos all in one place. Calls, texts, and emails can be tied to the same platform so people can still receive quick information according to their preferences. With the additional tools a communication portal provides, the administration can post informational videos or hold video conferences to educate parents/guardians and students on how to best adhere to these and other CDC guidelines while maintaining social distancing and limiting in-person interaction as much as possible.

During this critical time, parents and guardians simply want to know their kids are safe. A recent poll revealed that over half of parents are not convinced that school is safe for their children to return. One of the simplest ways to help ensure safety and reassure parents is to be transparent and communicate as much as possible. This means sharing the CDC guidelines with them in a way that’s easy to understand, how the school plans to adhere to them, and most importantly, making this information attainable in multiple ways. Feeling included and knowing what precautions are being taken will put both parents/guardians and staff at ease, not to mention that it will lighten the burden of staff needing to communicate with many parents/guardians individually.

Providing New Options

The CDC’s guidelines also state that schools should “offer options for students at higher risk of severe illness that limit their exposure risk (e.g., virtual learning opportunities).” This is proving to be a difficult challenge for many schools. In fact, one study revealed only 20 percent of schools are meeting the guidelines for rigorous remote learning instruction.

As a solution, the same portal utilized for mass communication can be utilized to provide classwork and even conduct lessons over video calls, allowing students who are more at risk to remain at home if needed. It also allows any students who are potentially sick or have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, to stay home and still receive their school work. This helps all students to remain at the same pace and level while creating minimal extra work for teachers and parents while still meeting educational standards.

Read: Miami-Dade schools ask parents: Hybrid or online learning?

Starting this line of communication sooner rather than later will ensure schools are prepared in the fall with minimal delays and confusion. Everyone, from students to parents, to staff, understanding what is expected of them will not only be a relief, but it will help keep operations efficient and organized. Don’t wait to communicate.

Amy Jeffs is Vice President of Status Solutions, and has held various positions within the mission-based organization for the past 13 years. Her primary duties include assisting Status Solutions’ Founder and President with developing and implementing the company’s overall go-to-market strategy. Her past experience includes 20+ years of technology business and marketing at start-ups up to Fortune 500 companies.

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