Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In
Communication about Coronavirus with your Independent School Community

 

Communication about Coronavirus with your Independent School Community: FAQs and Sample Language


While the Coronavirus remains a threat, it’s important to maintain calm, clear, and consistent communication with staff and families.

In your communication, instill confidence by conveying specific steps you are taking to look ahead, manage potential issues, and continually monitor information. When preparing initial communications, be sure to include the following elements:

  • The health of the community as the school's top priority
  • The situation as you understand it
  • Any potential risks or challenges ahead (e.g., trips, visitors, potential exposure through family members)
  • Specific requests or steps you are asking of community members
  • Specific steps the school is taking
  • Specific information sources you are monitoring
  • Key school contact person for any questions or concerns


Below you’ll find FAQs related to communication with school communities. Also provided are three sample communications, compiled from a number of letters shared by SAIS heads. In some cases, portions of letters provided have been combined for the purpose of the samples.

FAQs

Some schools have asked the following questions about communication to their community:

May we ask families and staff to let us know their travel plans?

Yes, schools may request that families and staff let them know where their spring break travels are taking them, but schools collecting such information should also follow up on the information received if families or staff members travel to affected areas.

It is also reasonable to ask individuals to follow the guidance from government agencies regarding quarantines after travel. Schools should share with families the steps that the school may take if a student must be under quarantine after spring break. To encourage families to follow the steps provided by the federal government for the safety of all concerned, schools should do their best to provide some form of distance learning or other flexible policies during these windows. The school should also be clear with staff members about what may happen if a staff member must be quarantined, particularly if the school is unable to work with the staff member to create a “work from home” opportunity. As with the students, more flexible leave policies will encourage greater self-reporting and compliance so that the virus does not spread any further. 

May we ask families and staff to tell us if they are exposed to someone who may have COVID-19?

Yes, schools may ask that families and staff be aware of their exposure levels during this time and share that information with the school as well as comply with any self-quarantine requirements, particularly as the virus spreads in the United States. Preventing further conveyance is something in which everyone should be engaged. As with the previous question, school will want to be ready with how they will accommodate individuals who may not be able to come to town for a period of time. 

What if we don’t know what we will do about upcoming summer trips, international family members who may want to come for graduation, or summer reunions?

That is okay. This situation continues to unfold, and it is understandable that schools may not yet know their plans for events occurring a few months out. Schools should have a timeline for when they are going to make decisions. Share that timeline and what information you are considering. Communities tend to respond well to transparency and understand that the school may not have all the answers.

My communications do not include information about the type of sanitizing we are doing. Should I have included that?

School communications vary from one culture to the next. What is entirely appropriate in one school may be completely out of place in another. Expect to share quite a bit of information in the weeks ahead and consider creating a resource page with updates that families and other community members can regularly track. 

Sample Language

Sample Language, Letter 1

In addition to the basic elements listed above, this letter addresses:

  • decisions about upcoming school trips,
  • requirements for families who travel,
  • plans to make online learning available if needed — and details on what will be required of families, and
  • the need to avoid harmful rumors and bias
    It’s important to proactively address, in partnership with families, xenophobic or racist comments and attend to any students or colleagues who have been harmed by such comments.

 

Dear [School] Families,

We are writing to follow up on last week’s communication about novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We will continue to monitor timely resources to inform how we can best uphold our commitment to the health and well-being of our community. While it is unsettling for parents, students and employees to read daily about COVID-19, the CDC has advised communities, businesses, schools and other organizations to be prepared for the possibility of needing to manage this new virus. Our School is committed to being as prepared as possible, and thus provides the following updates on our decisions and guidance to our community.

Planning for Possible School Disruption
We are currently exploring “online school” or remote learning should this become necessary for an period of time. We suggest you ensure that your student has access to high-speed internet should virtual learning need to occur for any period of time. If access is a problem for your family, please contact your child’s division head.

Business or Other Travel
Many of our parents are required to travel for business or other reasons, and we ask that those who travel to areas of CDC Level 2 or Level 3 concern inform the School of their travel so that we may provide appropriate guidance. We will be asking travelers from those countries to refrain from coming to campus for a minimum of 14 days after their return home.

Spring Break Travel
With Spring Break quickly approaching, we are particularly mindful that many of our families have plans to travel. We encourage families to take the usual health precautions.

As you evaluate your own travel, we encourage you to keep abreast of changes in restrictions for COVID-19 by using the following website: U.S. State Department to review your destination(s) before your departure, during your trip and upon your return. We understand this information changes and as such, encourage you to check this website regularly.

Many countries have instituted restrictions and quarantines for travel into and out of the country that may directly affect you. Please be mindful that travel restrictions can change with little or no advanced notice, and airlines may change or cancel flights in response.

Self-Quarantine For Travelers
Please note that the CDC is asking all travelers arriving in the U.S. from China, even if asymptomatic, to self-quarantine for 14 days.

In an abundance of caution, we ask Our School students, parents, faculty, staff and volunteers who are traveling to and/or returning from CDC Level 2 or Level 3 areas, or whose household members are returning from CDC Level 2 or Level 3 areas, not to return to school (including any school activities on or off campus) until a 14-day period has elapsed following their return to the United States, and to obtain medical clearance before returning to campus. If you travel to these areas, we ask you to self-report, via the emails listed below, to the respective school nurses and division heads.

Please contact your personal physician for specific instructions regarding self-quarantine. Please know that should your student require quarantine post-travel, we will do our best to provide remote learning and extend deadlines.

School Trips
The School has and will continue to carefully evaluate its School-sponsored trips in light of health and travel concerns for both departures and returns. Given the continuing uncertainty regarding both health risks and potential travel restrictions, we have canceled planned March trips to China, Italy and France. Individual communications will/have been sent to the families affected. We will be monitoring the health risks of travel as part of our routine decision-making process for the remainder of the trips planned this school year.

Official Sources of Information
Our School is following the current guidance provided by the Virginia Department of Health, the CDC, U.S. State Department and the World Health Organization (WHO). These are all excellent sources of information if you have any additional concerns about COVID-19. We will, of course, keep you informed of any recommendations that might affect our ability to operate the school normally.

Regular Flu Reminders
As we wrote last week, we remind you and your families to follow these simple steps, routinely recommended during flu season. [link]

Avoiding Bias
Finally, we are very aware that anxiety can be heightened during such situations. 

We want to separate fact from rumor by relying on our health care experts: the local, state and federal agencies that are responsible for guiding us. No one in our community should be unfairly targeted for any reason; our mission and community values all of us to be inclusive.

As we partner with you and our greater community to meet known and unknown challenges, we are committed to keeping the channels of communication open and doing all we reasonably can to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our community. We plan to communicate regularly with families as we monitor the situation and we will post health-related updates on the news page of our website.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding any medical or health issues, please feel free to reach out to the local health department or one of our school nurses:

[School Nurse contact information]

If you have any questions relating to our policies and procedures, please feel free to contact your respective division head or me.

[School Contact information]




Sample Language, Letter 2

In addition to the basic elements listed above, this letter offers:

 

  • a link to a detailed plan,
  • tips for basic illness prevention steps and ways the school is reinforcing them,
  • details on increased cleaning protocols, and
  • a note of support related to anxiety this outbreak may be causing in children.

Dear Parents,

Our school is currently monitoring closely the spread of the coronavirus and if it may, in time, affect our campus. Our main priority is to keep our students, faculty, and staff healthy and safe. We want to assure you that we will take necessary precautions so that our students are protected. 

We have created a detailed plan in response to the potential threat of this epidemic, [link]. The plan also applies to influenza, or any other pandemic virus that may cause serious widespread illnesses. It includes preventative and environmental sanitation practices on campus as well as remote learning opportunities, should they become necessary. 

With the approach of spring break and families traveling domestically and internationally, we strongly encourage you to adhere to the CDC's guidelines on travel. The first step in ensuring a safe community is always prevention.

We will continue to assess the risks associated with travel before making decisions regarding summer trips planned. Any changes to these trips will be communicated in a timely manner so that you may make alternative arrangements for your student should any cancellations be necessary.

Beginning in January, our housekeeping staff has implemented more aggressive cleaning measures.

Our school maintains a continuous education and practice of illness prevention. Our faculty and nurses are teaching and expecting our students to cover coughs and sneezes, increase frequent hand-washing, and avoid touching their mouth, nose, or eyes--all ways to stop or decrease the spread of many illnesses. 

Please remember that students take their emotional cues from the adult community. We encourage you to monitor your child's engagement in the topic and help them understand what they are seeing and hearing to avoid anxiety. Being prepared is not a cause for panic or alarm. Here is a helpful article on how to talk to your child about the Coronavirus outbreak. Our Health and Counseling staff are here to help you, too.

As a reminder: We emphasize that valuing every member of our community and treating them with care and respect is of principal importance, especially during trying times like these. We maintain our commitment to treating every member of our community with honor, respect, wisdom, and compassion.



Sample Language, Letter 3

This letter is written to faculty members and includes:

  • details about working together to address continuity of education and
  • links to helpful resources for talking to children about the coronavirus.

 

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

As the nation monitors the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, we need to turn our focus to possible impacts on our students, faculty, and staff. I want to share with you the current understanding of best practices and guiding principles for making decisions regarding the education and care of our students. I also want to inform you of updates to our policies and procedures, specifically as they relate to infection control and travel, based on what I have learned. I will also forward you a letter I’m sending to the community, which is almost identical to what is included below.

As always, the health and well-being of our community of students, faculty, staff, and families remain our highest priority. To ensure our sound and careful decision-making, we are monitoring global, national, and local health organizations, as well as consulting with local healthcare professionals. This includes following guidelines and recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Department of State, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for school closure, travel plans, and quarantine.  

We need to begin internal conversations about how a serious outbreak would affect teaching and learning, student travel, and community gatherings. We also need to assess options to ensure educational continuity for our students in the event of an extended school closing. I’ve learned that we need to conduct an internal document audit of our handbooks, enrollment contract, and any vendor contracts--including travel contracts--to identify where we may have financial exposure.

To enhance our hygiene protocols, I will speak with our cleaning crew to ensure that surfaces such as doors, door handles, faucets, handrails, etc. are disinfected frequently.

In addition, I am including reminders for parents of the CDC's general recommendations to help prevent the spread of any respiratory virus (like cold or flu and including COVID-19) and will invite them to join us in reinforcing that students wash their hands many times each day at school and when they return home; sneeze or cough into a tissue and throw it away or sneeze into their elbows; do not share cups or water bottles; and do not shake hands or use fist bumps. 

Here is the language going to families regarding travel, which will also apply to employees:

If you are traveling during spring break, please carefully check the CDC Travelers website and the State Department website to ensure a safe experience for your family. We recognize that families may have travel plans for spring break that include international travel. As of this mailing, the State Department has issued a travel guidance related to COVID-19 that includes a Warning Level 4 (do not travel) for China and Iran and Warning Level 3 (avoid all nonessential travel) for Italy and South Korea. For the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, or until further notice, we ask for your cooperation with the following protocol: 

If you are traveling internationally in a country where either the State Department or the CDC have issued an Alert Level 2, or Warning Level 3 or 4, or if you have been in contact with a traveler who has recently returned from these areas, please notify our Office Manager.

While it may be an unlikely scenario, our school reserves the right to require a family member, student, or employee to remain away from school for up to 14 days from your date of contact. A physician’s release may be required before returning to school. The link to the incubation period as determined by the CDC can be found here.


Lastly, we know that children take their emotional cues from the adult community. We, of course, should monitor students’ engagement in the topic and help them understand what they are seeing and hearing. These articles (which I will also share with parents) might be helpful in talking to students about the coronavirus outbreak:



How to talk to children about difficult news

Explaining the News to Our Kids

How to Talk to Kids About the Coronavirus Outbreak

How to Talk to Kids About Coronavirus



***

This information is provided for general purposes only and should not be used in place of legal advice. Schools should work with legal counsel for specific legal advice.


Calendar more
Administrative Leadership Institute
July 16 | Virtual
 
Annual Conference
October 21-23 | Virtual
 
 

More Events



Membership Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal