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Family Communications: More Important than Ever

Family Communications: More Important than Ever

As schools define learning plans for the fall and families make decisions about what option best fits their needs, regular updates and open lines of communication are about as important as they've ever been. This time is terribly stressful for everyone, so to prevent additional, unnecessary stress, schools and families alike need to remain connected.

Many schools are already changing their original reopening plans as COVID numbers increase and families voice deep concern about in-person schooling or inequities in virtual options. And while school leaders don't want to give their families whiplash as they adjust their plans, parents want and need to stay informed so they can make adjustments on their end as well. So how do you stay engaged during such a stressful period when parents are angry, teachers are worried and leaders feel like no matter what they decide, they're going to be criticized?

First, we must all realize the situation we are in and understand people's emotions are ramped up more than usual. Therefore, it's necessary to exercise patience, kindness and empathy above all when interacting with one another. Remember: we have no idea what personal struggles someone may be facing on top of everything our society is dealing with at the moment. Families must understand that educators--both classroom teachers and school leaders--miss their students but want to keep them (and themselves) safe. Educators must realize the heavy burden this situation puts on families and their own work and home lives. But for the sake of our students, we must remember we are all experiencing this pandemic, so it behooves us all to work together so that our students' learning is negatively impacted as little as possible.

As far as communication goes, what sort of things can you do to ensure parents know your door is open, and they are welcome to connect with you? Below are several resources we have created to help you along the path.

  • Return to school sample survey: Chances are, you have already sent something like this out to gauge your families' needs and thoughts on returning to school. If not, this is an easy document to share out and track up-to-the-minute responses.
  • Student experience satisfaction survey: Use this Google forms template to gather student feedback on distance learning.
  • Communication log status template: Use this template for tracking community inquiries and resolutions and keeping staff on the same page. As a Google Sheet, it can be shared with all district and building leaders who answer phones and otherwise receive inquiries, and you don't have to worry about multiple versions floating around since it can be updated by multiple users in real-time. This document will help you keep track of those who have been responded to, what the resolution was and who still needs to be contacted.
  • Resources for holding community meetings on Zoom: This document contains basic Zoom instructions and best practices for holding community meetings for your stakeholders, an essential tool while we continue to incorporate social distancing into our daily lives.
  • Sample letters for communication school closing: Use this template for staff and parent letters you you will need to distribute in the event of school closures.
  • Social media guidance: This document provides guidance around social media messaging in the event of a positive COVID-19 case in your district and a virtual learning announcement.

In addition to these resources, others on the OPSRC team have created content to help guide your decision making and actions throughout this school year. These are all located here, but there's also a link at the top of our website's home page. If you need any clarification or further assistance on any of these items, or you need something not listed on the page, please reach out to anyone on our team. We will continue to provide thoughtful guidance, documentation and support whenever you need it.

Just remember: You are not in this alone. This year won't be easy, but you can count on our staff to stand alongside you for the duration. Just let us know how we can help.

Sarah Julian

Director, Communications

Sarah serves as the Director of Communications for the OPSRC. In this role, she provides support, consultation and training on a variety of critical tools and PR functions, including communication plans, social media policies, crisis communications, media relations and website content.

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