Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and School Safety: Keep calm, have a plan, reduce risks, and communicate

Posted by on March 2, 2020

Also see Ken Trump’s Blog: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and K-12 schools: The time to prepare for student reentry is NOW!

Learn more here about our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Student and Educator Reentry Planning and Preparedness (SERPP) Services.

An Oregon Coronavirus patient was identified this weekend as an elementary school employee.  In Rhode Island, two members of a Catholic high school community – an adult male and a teen – have tested positive for Coronavirus, while students and chaperones from the same trip to Europe have “self-quarantined.”  Meanwhile, parents across the nation are looking to school officials for guidance as cases across the nation rise and anxiety mounts about the virus.

COVID-19 resources for school leaders

It is important for school leaders and members of their school-community to keep calm, have a plan, and take reasonable steps to reduce risks and to prepare for the time if and/or when Coronavirus impacts their school-community.  Resources to assist school leaders may include:

Many schools developed pandemic plans over the past two decades in response to a variety of health threats. Dust off the plans, update them in collaboration with community partner agencies, and train your staff and leadership accordingly.

Risk Communication resources for school leaders

School leaders must also have a communications plan with messaging driven by facts. The CDC has general CERC (Crisis + Emergency Risk Communication) guidelines and tools to help communicators with messaging in public health emergencies. The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) also has COVID-19 resources for its members and links to other industry resources.

In general, at a minimum parents want to know that as school leaders:

  • You are aware of COVID-19;
  • You are monitoring authoritative resources on COVID-19;
  • General steps you are taking to prevent and respond to flu and similar health issues at the school (information from school nurse, cleaning, informing students and staff, monitoring absenteeism, etc.);
  • Steps you are asking parents, students, staff, and other members of the school-community to take (stay home if ill, wash hands, cover coughs, etc.); and
  • Links to external authoritative sources you can provide to them for monitoring COVID-19 developments (CDC, state health department, etc.)

School safety involves so much more than planning for active shooters alone. Parents look to school leaders for guidance and reassurance when new health threats such as COVID-19 threaten our communities. So keep calm, have a plan, reduce risks, and communicate.

Ken Trump is the President of National School Safety and Security Services

Chuck Hibbert is a Senior Consultant to National School Safety and Security Services

National School Safety and Security Services

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