Thanks to Adie Tate, former teacher and Possip team member for contributing to this.
In these uncertain times, it is hard to have a plan for any possible event. The New York City DOE recently began releasing information, and sadly 50 staff members have died from COVID-19. The real health impact on folks in our education community is something that is hard to discuss.
Yet, we have to.
In the unlikely event that someone in your school community gets COVID-19, here are some plans to have in place to ensure that students and staff feel supported and know what is happening. This isn’t an exhaustive list. But we hope you are able to begin planning.
Designate a Point Person for Communication from the School
In order to dispel rumors and support the community in the best way possible, it is important to have clear communication from the school or district. Talk to your district to see if there is a plan in place to communicate with families if a staff member gets sick. If the sick individual is a parent or student, have one person reach out to the family to find out if they want any communication going out to the school community or not. Ensure that the one person who is the point person for the school has access to any means of communication they may need (Facebook login, email lists, website updates, wherever your community would go to find information)
Share Ways That Students Can Show Support, and Ways That They Can’t
Students and parents may want to show support or send get well wishes to the sick community member. It is extremely important for everyone to maintain social distancing guidelines at this time to protect themselves. Students can be encouraged to send short video messages and one person can compile them into a video message from the school. For younger students, they can make cards and have their parents or guardians send a digital picture to the point person, who can then pass along a digital get well card. In order to maintain the safety of all members of your community, do not collect physical get-well cards as this can spread COVID-19, as the virus can live on surfaces.
Support the Emotional Needs of Students
The experience of living through a global pandemic is traumatic for everyone and is especially difficult for young children who haven’t fully developed strong emotional intelligence or regulation strategies. The National Association of School Psychologists has put together some good resources for supporting the emotional needs of students in multiple languages. – https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/health-crisis-resources/helping-children-cope-with-changes-resulting-from-covid-19
Supporting Students In Online Learning If Their Teacher Is Out for a Prolonged Period of Time
Schools across the country have moved to distance-learning and one of the questions that arises is what to do if a teacher is sick and can’t lead distance learning. Before this happens, check with your district or CMO to see if they have a plan in place. If there is no other guidance, some possible solutions include reaching out to organizations that specialize in remote substitute teachers.
Mike Teng, CEO of Swing Education shared, “We’re here to support our school partners and educators in any way possible. Whether it’s for delivering meals, checking in on students’ wellness by phone, or subbing for a teacher virtually, substitute teachers are ready to help in any way they can. We’ve also made some product updates to accommodate any distance learning requests. Now, schools can easily request substitute teachers for virtual or distance learning classes directly on our platform. COVID-19 has impacted our lives in various ways, but our commitment to assisting our school partners and substitute teachers remains as strong as ever. We have also seen an outpouring of support and creativity from districts and local schools to ensure that learning can continue despite the school closures, so we’re incredibly proud to be an active partner for them during this unprecedented time of need.”
If substitute teachers don’t make sense for your schools, non-classroom teachers or other support staff can help out temporarily. No matter what solution you find that fits best with your school, be sure to communicate the plan with both parents and students.
How To Handle a Death In The Community
In the unlikely event that your community has a death during the pandemic, here is a resource from the National Association of School Psychologists on addressing grief for teachers and administrators – https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/mental-health-resources/addressing-grief/addressing-grief-tips-for-teachers-and-administrators
Although we all deeply hope that our students and families are safe during times of crisis, it’s important to plan for the potential to impact your community. Thinking through a plan to address trauma and needs of COVID-19 is necessary to successfully support your community.