Times of crisis call for collaboration and sharing of best practices that are working for students and families. Educators shouldn’t be living in silos during this time, but learning and listening to each other to create the best possible experience of reopening school. We’ve been seeing some really great practices from schools around the country and wanted to share them with education leaders.
Here are some great ideas and best practices that we’ve seen from schools and districts across the country:
Set up Partnerships with Community Organizations
Many families need help with childcare if school is going to be remote. Setting up a partnership with a local YMCA, church, or community organization to support parents of essential workers will greatly benefit families. Here is an example in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin where the school district and YMCA are partnering to support families: https://www.oasd.k12.wi.us/cf_news/view.cfm?newsid=3996 Another example is a charter network, Uplift Education in Dallas-Fort Worth, that has partnered with their public library and local internet providers to give free or discounted hotspots and internet service: https://www.uplifteducation.org/Page/17137
Create Easy Access to Counselors
Students and families are experiencing varying levels of trauma, confusion, grief, and fear during this time. Best practices dictate that providing access to social counselors for students is critical to their overall health and success in school. One network allowed for easy to access contact information to all of their social counselors in the district through a google site for counselors. If a student needs counseling support during virtual learning, parents and students know exactly who to contact.
Post Virtual Learning Schedules
Parents and students appreciate seeing a schedule that they can follow during virtual learning or a hybrid model. Schools can share or post this learning schedule so parents can start to create a family schedule, find childcare if needed, and set up a strong learning environment for their child. Here is an example of a schedule that is in student-friendly language so children can take more ownership of their learning schedule: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Apaf4xm9tp39SwFZv8RlhDdq08VssF-_WRWXsZuAQ-M/mobilebasic
Have a “Back to School” Night
Kids enjoy the thrill of meeting their new teacher and classmates at the yearly back to school night. Schools should get creative about how to still have that magical night recreated in a COVID-safe way. Warner Arts Elementary in Nashville, TN is having a “Back to School” Night drive-thru event. At the event, provide opportunities for students to see their new teacher and get information on the new school year.
Introduce New Teachers on Social Media
Because new teachers won’t get to introduce themselves in-person to families and students at a “back to school” night, a great idea from KIPP: Nashville is to post new teacher videos on social media that allows families to get to know new teachers ahead of time. Check out some of the videos here: https://www.facebook.com/KIPP.Nashville.TN/?fref=ts It’s a great community builder and a way for students and parents to feel connected to the new staff!
Help Families Plan for Their Future
Families, especially who are going to a combination of distance or remote learning, are going to have to make a lot of changes. Some districts are doing a great job of helping them! Metro Nashville Public Schools created a blog and video sessions to help families plan for how to create a virtual learning space). They’ve also created a Virtual Learning Playbook for families: https://www.mnps.org/playbook.
Create Systems for Hearing From and Responding to Families
With families, students, and staff dispersed, it is harder than ever to hear from the broader school community! Many districts are creating systems to hear from – and respond to – questions from families. Of course, Possip is a tool that districts and schools can use to routinely hear from families.
Schools and districts also have systems so they can respond to families. We have some templates some of our partners use to host Virtual Family Meetings.
Sumner County Schools uses a weekly Facebook live to respond to frequently asked questions that come through pulse checks and other sources and created this document (Parent Guide for Special Education Supports) on their website for their families.
Looking to Implement Best Practices?
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or if you have other great ideas to share!