Beverly Hamm, a Possip Reporting Specialist, former teacher, and mom of three, writes about the importance of building family confidence in COVID-19 safety measures at schools.
As excited as many families are to return to in-person learning, concerns and questions about COVID-19 safety measures at school can be overwhelming for families and school administrators. In fact, a top trend in our Pulse Check Reports is family questions and feedback on COVID-19 safety measures.
Developing ways for families to share concerns and gather correct information can lessen anxiety and prevent the spread of misinformation. Here are six clear strategies schools can use to communicate with families on COVID-19 safety:
1. Provide both online and written copies of the school safety measures.
These measures can include policies for temperature checks, hand washing, lunch, social distancing, and masks. Remind families of the various ways they can easily access this resource if and when they need it. For example, a school district in Illinois created an online PDF copy of their safety measures.
2. Share the “why” behind all school safety measures.
Through Possip pulse checks, and national conversations, it is clear that parents have diverse views on appropriate safety measures. Some want everyone in facemasks – some want no one in facemasks. Whatever safety measures you have, be sure to share the why. It is tempting to assume all people want the same safety measures. That is likely untrue. By providing the why you equip parents to be able to understand more, and to communicate those reasons with their children.
3. Create and share a process on the consequences of not following safety protocols.
Families want to know what happens if students do not follow policies. Sharing consequences will provide clarity for those who may be tempted to disregard the guidelines. It will also give assurance to those who desire to know a plan is in place to enforce them. To illustrate this, here’s an example from a district in Texas that shared updates to their Code of Conduct (on page 23) based on safety guidelines.
4. Ensure parents have access to up-to-date district quarantine policies for infected and exposed students.
Letting parents know about an infected or exposed student can be a tough phone call. The parent might have recently returned to a normal work routine, and the stress of virtual school could be overwhelming. That’s why it’s imperative families understand quarantine protocols upfront. Assure them that students will still receive academic support during quarantine. For reference, click on the following examples from a school district in Illinois and an Ohio school district that provided quarantine guidance.
5. Provide an online and written copy of student and teacher expectations during quarantine.
Parents may worry their child will not graduate or go to the next grade if they are quarantined and “miss” more school. Having a plan in place and sharing quarantine expectations in the quarantine notification will help reassure families.
6. Use Possip Pulse Checks to ask how families feel about COVID-19 safety.
Families need an outlet to share their COVID-19 safety concerns. They could share any of the following:
- Academic concerns with quarantine
- Lack of social distancing in overcrowded hallways, classrooms, or the cafeteria
- Violations of the mask usage policies
- Questions about how many cases would warrant a school or district closure
Surfacing their concerns can inform what questions you answer and gaps in safety to close.
7. Use Possip Bonus Questions to ask for suggestions or feedback on COVID-19 safety.
Many of your families may have great ideas–inspired by their workplaces or frequented spots–on improving safety. Make them part of the solution by giving them an avenue to offer suggestions and share their valuable insight. Here is a blog post about one of our district partners, Baltimore City Public Schools, and how Possip has helped them through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though you will inevitably have families that will be frustrated with processes and protocols, hopefully having clear and easily accessible guidelines, and multiple ways for families to share feedback, will help everyone feel better about safely returning to school.