As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread throughout the country, we're reminded about the importance of district communication capabilities and attendance policies in times of public health concerns.
We understand the fine line schools and districts are required to walk in times like this, and the balance that must be achieved in order to protect the general well-being of your community while maintaining consistency in the classroom to advance student growth.
Our top piece of advice is to be proactive and plan in advance.
Many families and community members are already reaching out to schools and districts looking for plans and protocols. Should the COVID-19 situation escalate in your community, you will need to send communications that clearly convey your action plans. If left to the last minute, these communications may not be as effective and strategic as you would like. Therefore, we encourage all districts to be proactive and create plans in advance so that you have thoughtful actions and messages to deploy in the event you need them.
As you evaluate the situation in your local community, here are a few recommended guidelines to keep in mind as you make decisions. We’ve organized these recommendations into communications and attendance segments for efficient application.
Recommended K–12 Communication Guidelines for Coronavirus
1. Have a Communications Plan and District-Wide Messaging Capabilities Ready
As mentioned above, it is important to plan in advance for these types of situations. If and when you need to address a public health concern, you want to send clear communications to your community in a swift and secure manner. If your communications are left to the last minute and written in a hurry, there is a higher chance for messy strategy, typos, and miscommunication.
Ensure your school or district has the following established:
- Clear talking points for leaders and staff
- The capability to deploy school- or district-wide messages that reach all families
- Drafted messages that are already proof-read and ready to use
2. Send PDFs via SMS for Faster and Easier Accessibility
Physical mail is notoriously slow and has become significantly less reliable. Physical mail also regularly fails to reach students and families that live in temporary housing. If you are striving to send a document regarding coronavirus or attendance to your community, we recommend sending PDFs via SMS with clickable links. Sending a PDF that is several pages in length as a clickable link via SMS/email is faster, more reliable, and more accessible to all families.
3. Communicate with ALL Families
Language barriers and physical addresses should not be a barrier to any family receiving or understanding school or district communications.
When you write your communications, use short, simple, and clear sentences. We recommend you write at a 5th grade level to ensure most literacy levels can understand the information.
Additionally, ensure you have the capability to translate your messages into each family’s home language via email and SMS text message so that nobody is left out of the loop.
Recommended K–12 Attendance Guidelines for Coronavirus
1. Establish Clarity on Your Attendance Policies
As schools and districts are faced with decisions to cancel school in the event of a student or staff member testing positive for coronavirus, we recommend you thoroughly review your existing attendance policies, identify any areas that need further clarity, and then add that clarity within the policy.
In the event you need to revise your attendance policy (even if temporarily), think through your goals and priorities and then outline your policy in alignment with those goals and priorities.
2. Establish Your Process to Clearly Record and Document Absences
Absences can follow students through the remainder of their K–12 career and impact their personal growth and college acceptance rates.
Because of these significant impacts, attendance recording accuracy and transparency is critical. If an attendance policy changes, or you expect a number of students to be absent due to health concerns, you must have a consistent and reliable way to record and document all details and notes about these absences so that you can clearly articulate them to family members and stakeholders at any time.
3. Clearly Communicate Your Policy Internally and Externally
When you have clarity on your policies, we recommend you send out internal communications to all staff members to ensure everyone is up to date and has accurate information at their fingertips.
Shortly after your staff has had time to digest the policies and ask any questions they may have, we recommend you send a communication to your entire community with the same information.
Setting expectations and establishing clarity internally and externally will let everyone know that you are paying close attention to the situation and taking appropriate steps to keep your community safe and healthy. This will help alleviate fear and provide some peace of mind to your community.
Kinvolved’s Lending Hand
We fully understand the health concern and the importance of communicating with your communities in a time of a pandemic, and we empathize with the decisions you will be required to make in the weeks and months ahead.
As a way of lending a hand, we are providing our KiNVO™ software for free for the remainder of the school year to new districts that purchase a contract for next school year. KiNVO is a secure and easy-to-use attendance and communications software that enables you to:
- Send Two-Way SMS/email in 80+ Languages
- Deploy Emergency Alerts
- Send PDFs as Clickable Links via SMS/email
- Reach All Families Without Requiring them to Log In to an App
- Automatically Archive All Communications for Compliance
- Send Communications about Daily Attendance, Period Attendance, and Number of Days Absent
- Track Attendance with Ease and Fidelity
- Automatically Generate Official Attendance Letters
If you’re interested in using KiNVO for free to support your district’s engagement and rapid response, please contact us.