We start by assuming that each school already has a disaster plan in place. This may be for how to handle a weather event or how to deal with a measles outbreak that affects a quarter of the school, or it may be related to post-9-11 events. Dust it off. Now.
Here are the basics we suggest for school leaders:
- Be calm so that those around you will be calmer;
- Let you parents know you have a plan to do school remotely;
- Get your faculty working on how to do the rest of the year when you can’t teach in person – pair them up or work in small groups and brainstorm ideas and share approaches;
- Get your technology ready and test it;
- Think about how you will pay the bills and make sure your faculty and staff get paid when the business office will be closed;
- Once your plan for teaching is clear, share it with the community;
- Link the community to reliable resources on preparation- CDC website and others – and suggest they follow the advice there; and
- Remind families that every year there is a flu epidemic and every year kids and parents survive it by being smart.
Above all else, remember that people take their lead emotionally from the leaders. Exude calm and confidence that your community will support each other, and school will go on one way or another. Assure high school juniors that their college admissions will not be affected by learning remotely. Assure the seniors that there will be a way to honor their success. Teaching and learning are not inextricably tied to bricks and mortar, nor to any one specific location. Learning opportunities often present themselves in unlikely and sometimes unwanted ways. It is the responsibility of school leadership to identify the opportunities and to marshal resources effectively to ensure that learning continues unabated. The norms and expectations that your school has established will sustain the community throughout a crisis as long as leadership is visible, processes and procedures are in place, and communications are clear.