With media and political attention swirling around COVID-19 – also referred to as coronavirus – our school communities need to hear from us on current plans and where/how they will get additional information.
The communication requirements for responding to a public health issue are very similar to any other crisis situation. These include accurate information and frequent communication from official sources. Below are a few quick steps that will help with planning, focused specifically on information and communication.
I have also linked to a number of Kansas districts who have information posted on their website. I am sure there are many more, but these are the ones shared by KanSPRA colleagues recently.
- Refer to your crisis plan and adjust for the current situation. This will include clarifying roles and responsibilities unique to a public health concern.
- Review board policies relating to student health, contagious diseases, quarantine of students, staff and families, and other related issues. (Contact KASB Legal staff or assistance.)
- Establish notification and monitoring processes and communicate these to the board, staff and students.
- We live in a 24-hour news and digital media world, and this is an evolving concern. Your message will continue to change over time. It is important that you communicate early with your community about your awareness of the concerns and what plans you have in place for monitoring and notifying them of the school’s plans.
- Use this five-point plan to prepare your message.
- Early messages might include:
- We appreciate the questions we have received regarding the current public health concerns.
- We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our students and staff.
- We have been in contact with our county health officials and will continue to monitor concerns.
- We will provide additional information as it becomes available.
- Include a list of what you are doing to provide additional protection for students and staff, such as reminding students to wash their hands, adding more hand sanitizer to schools and classrooms, etc.
- Make it easy for your community to find information about the issue by posting links on your website to the following official outlets for information:
- Kansas Department of Health and Environment http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus/
- Centers for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-for-schools.html
- Your County Health Department (Check website for resources available in your area.)
- KASB: https://kasb.org/advocacy/keyresources/ (KASB will post additional resources on this page as they become available.
- NSBA Legal Guide for COVID-19: https://www.nsba.org/Resources/coronavirus/legal-guide
Legal Guidance: Please reach out the KASB legal staff for assistance with specific questions relating to board policies and legal regulations relating to student and staff health.
Communication Support: You are also welcome to contact me (Carol Pitts), KASB assistant executive director marketing and public relations, for assistance with communication planning and messaging.
Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus
National Association of School Psychology: Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource
A few great examples from KanSPRA members/school public relations professionals