How to Communicate Back to School Protocols Natalie Slyman The start of the school year is looking a lot different depending on where you live. In some districts, schools are opening with set safety requirements, like masks and social distancing. In others, schools are keeping learning remote, at least through the end of the year. And at some schools, the plan is to open, and restrictions are up in the air, if any. There’s a lot of confusion out there about what the appropriate next steps are. But with the school year set to begin, school administrators need to think up the best ways to address back-to-school protocols. Here are some tips for conveying to parents, students, and teachers what the new year might look like. 1. Create a Visual Infographics and other visual content can help quickly, clearly, and easily convey any protocols that will be in place, as well as outline various scenarios. While the graphic above doesn’t commit to a specific course of action yet, it does concisely break down the different available options. By keeping it visual and succinct, this school is able to efficiently communicate what possibilities are currently on the table — all without overcomplicating it. Here’s another great visual example. This graphic states a school’s requirement to have any ailing staff members, faculty, or students stay home. It sets the groundwork for school protocols with a message that those of all ages can understand and makes it clear that coming into school when not feeling well isn’t safe. The key to using visuals to communicate protocols is to keep them as simple as possible. From there, you need to distribute them as needed to ensure everyone sees them. This can be accomplished through snail mail and email, and posters in and around your campus. 2. Create an Email Campaign Email is one of the most effective resources that schools have for communicating with parents. Send emails leading up to the first day of school, and as needed after school starts, to keep parents in the loop. Prior to the first day, describe how your staff is preparing and sanitizing the school, what the CDC is saying regarding guidelines for schools, and what the official plan will be for returning. From there, use email to continually update parents as needed. 3. Film a Returning-to-School Video We’re in unprecedented times, which means it may be very difficult for parents and children to visualize what certain protocols will look like, such as social distancing in the classroom and lunchroom. Videos can help outline procedures for returning to school in a way that is both helpful and more understandable for parents and kids. They can also be used as a way to very clearly communicate to students what they should and should not be doing when they return to school. Try to cover as much ground as you can in your video to address common questions parents and students are going to have. This may include rules on things like bringing in items from home and whether recess is still going to happen, as well as what it would look like. 4. Publish a Landing Page Build a landing page on your school’s website that can serve as a one-stop resource for everything that parents, children, staff, and teachers need to know about your school’s policies and protocols. Since these are likely to change over time, this landing page should be regularly updated to ensure that everyone is aware of what’s happening. On the page, list all of the health updates, safety protocols, and various policies that your school is enforcing. Ultimately, this should serve as a hub for all need-to-know information so that everyone at every time can be up to date. 5. All of the Above! Your best course of action when communicating your school’s protocols: do more, not less. You can never be too careful right now, and overdoing it is always going to be a safer bet than under-doing it. Pursue as many avenues and methods as you can for conveying information about what your school is and isn’t doing, including all of the steps above, if possible. Note that if you have any families in your school who you know do not have access to or regularly check things like email and your school’s website, you will need to have a plan in place for staying in touch. Keep a list of these families and ensure that you mail to them directly any updates on policies and protocols. As cliché as it is to say, we’re all in this together. Look to other schools in your district and beyond to see what they’re doing, what’s working, and what’s not working. Be adaptable with your protocols, and recognize that information is changing nearly every day, and it’s okay to change course if it means protecting your students, teachers, and staff. We’ll get through this, but in the meantime, do your best with what you’ve got. And if you are looking for a software solution that can help enable your K12 communication, schedule a live demo of our K12 Edition today.