Communicating with Families in the Time of Covid-19

Regular and open communication between schools, teachers, and families is always important. This sharing of information has become even more essential as schools and families work together to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic. In this context and given the evolving nature of the pandemic, many parents have new and emerging health and safety questions and concerns as they send their young children to a school setting. From the school perspective, educators rely on family information-sharing and transparency in order to maximize the effectiveness of health and safety protocols and practices. In short, two-way communication is key to establishing and maintaining the health and safety of staff and students and everyone’s peace of mind during this challenging time. 


Update and Share Contact Information 

The first step for effective communication is ensuring that all contact information for center families is up-to-date. Contact information should include cell phones, home phones, email addresses, and any other modalities used to communicate with families. In this current context, information can be urgent, so it is vital to have efficient and effective ways of reaching all families. Additionally, it is important to make clear to families the best ways to reach center staff. Share and include in reminders information about who families can contact with questions, concerns, or health-related information. 


Be Proactive

Be sure that new and current families know what types of communication they should expect and how different situations will be handled should they arise. In this communication, clearly explain the protocols and procedures that will be followed in school and ways families can prepare their children for these changes. Include information on how the school will respond to a positive case within the school community. Being transparent about how decisions will be made fosters a sense of trust and confidence. Families also must deeply understand and commit to the expectations for reporting symptoms and positive cases to the school. Be clear with families that this information will be handled with discretion and compassion. 

And, if there are changes to that communication plan, explain the shift so families remain connected and current. In a time when there is so much uncertainty, it is empowering for families to feel like they have a handle on understanding decision-making structures and protocols.


Communicate Regularly and Clearly

Make sure you have established routine channels of communication with families. Parents and caregivers should know the best places to look for up-to-date school-related information whether it be a website, email newsletter, communication app, or other forums used to share information. Find ways to get feedback from parents about the utility and effectiveness of these channels and make adjustments as needed. 

When sending messages, consider the format and style of your communication. Be sure that it is easily understood by all readers. Use bullet points to break up longer pieces of information. For email communication, use subjects such as “urgent” or “action required” to clearly convey messages that require immediate attention.


Value Students, Families, and Teachers

The foundation of a school learning community is the people–the staff, students, and families. In a time when logistics, procedures, and data can dominate interactions between schools and families, it is integral to continue weaving messages of care, empathy, and connectedness into these communications. Find ways to acknowledge the stress and concern staff and families are under and regularly include nods of appreciation and gratitude for the effort all are giving to build a strong learning community that is both safe and engaging.