COVID-19 Planning For School Leaders

By PrinciPal Connection posted 8 days ago

Part of what makes a good leader is being able to see where your organization needs to be in the future and taking steps today to guide it there. That is part of what has made the current situation so difficult to navigate — no one quite knows what the future will look like — but it’s not all bad news. It appears that we as a state are on track to hitting Phase 3 in Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan by the end of the month. However, as you are aware, schools are not slated to physically reopen until Phase 4. As well all forge paths into the unknown we must draw on our collective know-how, as well as guidance issued by the Illinois State Board of Education and others. We hope the following helps informing the difficult decisions that lay ahead. As additional information becomes available we will continue to update this post.

Closing Out The 2019-2020 School Year

The following is from the introduction to ISBE's Consideration for Closing the 2019-20 School Year & Summer 2020 Transition Plan - Part 1. Read the full document here.

  • We recognize the effects of trauma caused by the pandemic and further emphasize the need to support the social-emotional needs of staff, students, and families. Consider providing broad counseling services within schools and the community, and possibly partnering with social service agencies, cooperatives, and other providers.
  • Submit attendance for the 2019-20 school year in the Student Information System. Final data is due to ISBE by August 14. The primary purpose of attendance during this time is to account for instructional days, keep students engaged, and check in daily on students’ well-being.
  • Account for every enrolled student and conduct wellness checks where necessary. Ensure educators and staff are aware of their duties as Mandated Reporters of child abuse and neglect.
  • Communicate with students and families about grades. ISBE continues to recommend:
    • Student grades should not fall below the grade earned as of March 17, 2020.
    • Students are able to improve any grade they had earned prior to the start of remote learning.
    • Students successfully complete/pass the courses in which they are enrolled.
  • If an Incomplete grade is issued, the issuing teacher should identify the essential skills the student has not demonstrated and provide an individualized plan for the student indicating how those essential skills can be demonstrated, including through opportunities such as summer school.
  • Minimize learning loss through activities such as preparing summer learning packets for students and holding virtual transition meetings between each student’s current teacher and their teacher for the 2020-21 school year.
  • Provide a safe process for students to pick up any belongings left at the school building.

Considerations For The Summer

The following is from the introduction to ISBE's Consideration for Closing the 2019-20 School Year & Summer 2020 Transition Plan - Part 1. Read the full document here.

  • Maintain avenues of virtual contact with students to continue to build positive relationships.
  • Conduct summer school programming remotely. Districts should make every effort throughout the summer and prior to the start of the next school year to have any student who received an Incomplete grade complete their individualized plan and earn a passing grade.
  • Look at the needs of the community and provide free meals through the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option.
  • Consider distributing devices and ensuring plans are in place for meeting all students technology needs for the 2020-21 school year, in preparation for potentially returning to remote learning again.
  • Use the summer months to address needs for professional development and training support for educators in many areas, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and fear. Devote time for mental health and counseling plans, preparation, and training.
  • Learning loss may vary considerably, so teachers or curriculum teams, composed of current grade level representatives and previous grade level representatives, are encouraged to meet to determine the standards that must be reviewed upon moving to the next grade level.
  • Each student will have had a unique remote learning experience and finish the school year with varied experiences, skills, and mastery of prior coursework. Begin planning and preparations for how students will be assessed in each grade/course to inform teachers of current student progress and needs.
  • Begin considering accommodations and preparations for Phase 4 to ensure schools are prepared for this “new normal.” Consider operations such as school cleaning schedules/practices and procurement of necessary supplies in quantities schools were previously not accustomed to buying, e.g. large volumes of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and cleaners. More detailed guidance will be provided in the forthcoming Part Two transition document.

Fall 2020

IPA has 3 member-led working groups that have already begun brain-storming how to handle the start of a new school year. Deatils on how to participate are as follows. 
The Centers for Diseases Control has newly released interim guidance on what measures schools must take once they open their doors again. You can access a PDF of that plan here. School specific guidance starts around page 47. Unlike Illinois, the CDC has a 3 phase reopening plan (page 7 in this document). The following recommendations for schools are either encouraged or required during all 3 stages:
  • Space seating/desks to at least six feet apart.
  • Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
  • Close communal use spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds if possible; otherwise stagger use and disinfect in between use.
  • If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, serve meals in classrooms instead. Serve individually plated meals and hold activities in separate classrooms and ensure the safety of children with food allergies.
  • Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations, or put in place other protocols to limit close contact with parents or caregivers as much as possible.
  • Create social distance between children on school buses (for example, seating children one child per seat, every other row) where possible.
  • Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older children).
  • Work with school administrators, nurses, and other healthcare providers to identify an isolation room or area to separate anyone who exhibits COVID-like symptoms.
  • If feasible, conduct daily health checks (e.g. temperature screening and/or symptoms checking) of staff and students safely, respectfully, as well as in accordance with any applicable privacy laws or regulations. Confidentiality should be maintained.