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District communications should be intended to empower parents, educators and the local community to share their opinions about their local education system and reassure them that their input is listened to, valued, and considered in decision-making regarding school reopening. In particular, parents want to receive consistent and frequent information on decisions that impact their children, and they need to be reassured that the policies being enacted are best for their kids. Visit CDE’s family engagement website for more information about family-school-community partnership.
District leadership should make sure to build in time to collaborate with your local public health agency on your plans as well as your communication materials.
Here are a number of communications activities to consider when preparing to reopen schools for the 2020-21 academic year.
Family and teacher engagement strategies to support reopening
- Administer a survey to educators, parents, and/or students to gather their views around reopening, schedules, etc.
- Form a task force or advisory group of parents and educators to discuss the CDPHE and CDE guidance and public health orders and make recommendations for local implementation.
- Send frequent and regular emails to educators and other staff letting them know your progress in forming and adjusting reopening plans.
- Appoint a family liaison in charge of overseeing all communications with families, if one is not present already.
- Ensure a dedicated COVID-19 email address or telephone number run by the district is functional, messages are monitored, and timely responses are provided.
- Host virtual town halls to communicate the results of the survey and work of the Task Force.
- Distribute press releases articulating a detailed vision for school reopening and how community input was/will be incorporated.
- Create and run public service announcements encouraging steps such as filling out the survey.
- Publish opinion pieces that articulate the district’s reasoning behind its reopening plans and describe health and safety precautions being taken.
- Conduct a media briefing to communicate the district’s reopening plans.
Ideas for engaging parents and key stakeholders
- Co-host meetings with educator organizations, community groups, parents and families, and other civic-minded bodies to hear concerns and provide clarity on the district’s vision.
- Engage sign-language, Spanish and other interpreters as necessary to meet diverse needs of parents.
- Record meetings and post to the district’s website.
- Discuss and review parent-friendly materials.
- Work with partners to identify additional stakeholders and opportunities for deeper engagement.
- Have materials reviewed by civil rights, advocacy groups, and organizations that represent vulnerable communities for tone, cultural competency, and to ensure key issues are addressed.
Consider multiple channels and platforms for communicating new ideas
- Communicate frequently to educators and internal staff via email, intranet, text and other channels.
- Take steps to ensure that all materials are available in multiple languages and are accessible to parents and other stakeholders with disabilities.
- Communicate via local media (earned, donated, and paid) channels including print, TV, and radio.
- Track questions that are raised and post an FAQ online with clear, detailed answers to respond to common concerns and issues.
- Engage with stakeholders on various social media channels.
- Use email, texts and social media to reach parents with key information.
- In addition to the above channels, share information through community-based organizations such as PTAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, and places of worship.