Lessons from independent school leaders about messaging school closures and COVID-19 diagnoses

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Lessons from independent school leaders about messaging school closures and COVID-19 diagnoses

In every interaction, EAB asks heads of school to share messaging and communications lessons that we can broadcast to peers. Here are strategies that are rapidly becoming common practice, especially among independent schools, as they communicate school closures and COVID-19 diagnoses.

Don’t call it a “closure,” call it “remote learning”  

Referring to the 2-3 week campus shutdowns most are experiencing as a “closure” sends an unwanted message that all educational and community activity is suspended. This can be disengaging for students and may encourage parents to consider asking for refunds in the mistaken presumption that education has stopped. “Remote learning environment” or some variant thereof is the preferred term, signaling that the mission is in force, and services are still provided.

Announce that you won’t be announcing each and every COVID-19 diagnosis 

“There are going to be a string of new cases every week, maybe every day. It’s too much work for us to track and relay them, and it’s unsettling for families to read them over and over. We’re betting that so many people will get it, that it won’t be a big enough deal to note it, as long as we’re ensuring that the school is taking all recommended precautions.”

EAB spoke with several independent school leaders in Washington state, New Jersey, and New York that saw their first confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses among the school community and had to decide how to communicate the information to families, teachers, and staff. 

Their advice: Send a notification about the first case that confirms the diagnosis and assures that all prudent isolation steps are underway.  But also stress that going forward, the school or district will not be reporting new diagnoses.