“Clear communication is essential, particularly during school interruptions,” states the Louisiana Department of Education’s Guidance on Communicating During School Interruptions. As districts across the state ease into the third and final phase of school reopening, effective communication remains a crucial component for success. “I know our educators look forward to welcoming students back, but they also know this transition has to be done in a way that is mindful and maintains the progress Louisiana has made in pushing back this virus,” says Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. “I encourage system and school leaders to collaborate with their school families to ensure a successful transition."
“The Department strongly encourages all school systems to develop and implement dedicated and centralized communications plans, aligned with emergency policies, to help maintain consistent messaging.”
Included in the department guidelines are four simple recommendations.1. Setting communication protocols includes creating and maintaining internal plans for reaching families and the community.According to the department guide, “Communications plans should identify simple, key messages, a reliable process, and the ability to provide continual updates and collect feedback.” Well-coordinated communication efforts will enhance the cohesiveness of your school system and even raise professionalism.
However, many school systems rely on manual call logs that not only take time and effort from already-taxed educators, but contain inaccuracies or limited accounts of conversations. If possible, invest in a communication tool that automatically logs and records communication and allows administrators to monitor texts, calls, and emails within a few clicks from a single screen. Regular spot checking of conversations with parents can help a principal determine if protocols are being followed, and calling metrics can help district administrators view results. In addition, call recordings or text transcripts ease teacher workload, and ensure records are accurate in case of a we-said, they-said situation.2. Your school’s plan to share information and response plans with stakeholders, depends on your ability to reach every stakeholder in your school community. Common barriers to reaching every parent include language, access to a smartphone, access to wifi, and technological know-how. According to department guidance, “External communications plans take into account accessibility for various audiences, including but not limited to English Learners and those with disabilities.”
In order to effectively get your plans in front of stakeholders, consider tools that eliminate these widespread issues on a one-to-one level, not just mass communication from the school. We suggest teacher communication tools that are capable of language translation so that no conversation is waiting for the district translator or being transmitted via student.
In addition, if it is possible to safely reach a parent without requiring them to download an app or input a code, the likelihood of connecting increases. Over 98% of text messages are read. One-to-one conversations between your teachers and parents will not only build trust for district leaders, but will also allow you to gather honest feedback about district efforts.
3. Streamlining communications is an enormous undertaking with a great deal at stake. Take into consideration that teachers are utilizing multiple communication apps, layer on parent apps for monitoring assignments and grades, plus social media messaging, website pages, and private text messaging, and you'll conclude that oversight is overwhelming.
The Louisiana Department of Education’s guidelines focus on sharing updates and resources on your district website. Their advice directs leaders to “provide a prominent web banner or pop-up message with a link to a designated landing page. Be sure to state facts and keep your messages simple, specific, and aligned to the information your school system is communicating. Provide links to information and resources when applicable.” Furthermore, guidance says to “Allow for two-way communication: Families should be able to submit questions, comments, and concerns, providing administrators with the ability to remain connected and respond promptly to concerns.”
This guidance suggests that all parents are proactively and consistently visiting the district website. Parents who don’t have wifi, smartphones, or regular access to a computer may never see district updates. Parents who have questions won’t know where to find the answers they need, and impersonal web pages may deter guardians who don’t have good relationships with the school.
While your district information strategy should include an updated website and frequent social media posts, your bread and butter is your one-to-one communication with parents. To build relationships and trust within your school community, consider a way to monitor and guide the communication while simultaneously providing parents an avenue to ask and engage with questions or concerns. Reaching every parent means meeting them where they are—not building an excellent website for them to visit.
4. Staying in contact with parents and demonstrating support includes sending frequent updates. The Louisiana Department of Education suggests using multiple avenues of communication, “making sure to identify and meet the needs of those who do not have internet access.”
Frequent, personal communication happens when it’s easy for everyone. Communication methods that require a parent to log into an app, messages that arrive via mass text, or complicated groups messaging apps are either troublesome on the classroom side or the home side. Either one and the frequency of your communication dwindles. In order to meet department guidelines, consider tools for teachers that are easy to use on a computer or a mobile phone, secure their privacy, and reach parents where they are via sms or text.
These recommendations can be complicated for schools using multiple communication platforms or manual call logging via google spreadsheet. When choosing communication options, we recommend that leaders determine weak points in communication plans and adjust accordingly.
As your school system moves forward into Phase 3, take time to assess your communication tools and procedures. Start with the excellent guidance offered by the Department of Education and also ask:
- Can we monitor our communication and adhere to protocol long term?
- Can our principals, counselors, and teachers reach every parent regardless of language or internet access?
- Do our communication tools allow parents easy access to educators for questions and concerns separate from our website or social media?
- Are our team members equipped with tools for easy, frequent, and safe parent communication?
SchoolStatus is the district-wide communication tool that integrates key student data in order to increase communication among educators, district administrators and student families. The company’s solution aggregates individual student data, such as state assessments, attendance and grades in an easy-to-visualize format and offers the option to communicate with student families via call, text or email. Through SchoolStatus, millions of communications have occurred on the classroom, campus and district level. For more information about SchoolStatus, visit www.schoolstatus.com.