Earlier today, the IASA Covid-19 Swat Team met in Springfield to address something that we are finding difficult to grasp — the continuity of education during a school closure for a pandemic. We covered an immense amount of material and eventually settled on the following as our first report to the field. This report is compartmentalized into 3 categories. The first category is the Communications toolkit and here’s why. Historically, whenever a natural disaster has occurred, the investigation of that event has normally shown that there was a breakdown in effective communication that resulted in other cascading disasters and loss of life. The second category is recommendations for executive or legislative action and here’s why. If we are to be marginally successful in this heroic effort to have a continuity of education during a global pandemic, then it will require some executive and legislative actions to support the effort. The third category is called Stepping Up: Sharing our Stories. Here’s why we believe this is important. It’s the human story during unprecedented times that will be most crucial to our collective psyche. By using the hashtag on Twitter #ILSCHOOLSSTEPUP we can document the story and support each other all across the state.
Below is a closer look at these three areas and the conversation the committee had around various ways to support school leaders.
1) IASA will create a toolkit with template letters to make it easier for school leaders to communicate with their community and staff. In addition, the toolkit will include other valuable resources and guidance.
2) The committee discussed how school leaders can focus on core food and sustenance support for kids during the possibility of long-term closure, as well as expanding community engagement efforts with critical stakeholders, such as police and other emergency responders. Also, the committee discussed the need to, in conjunction with your regional superintendent, be in regular contact with your local health department and emergency management officials and to clarify roles. Organizing webinars with critical stakeholders on COVID-19 situational awareness and planning can be beneficial.
3) Focus on how to support schools with continued education engagement, including remaining in contact with school families throughout the process, as well as how school districts can support distance learning efforts.
4) Encouraging school leaders to start thinking about a longer, and perhaps much longer, closure of the schools. With the escalation of the virus spreading and the healthcare industry’s ability to meet the demand, it may be necessary to extend the school closure indefinitely.
5) Emphasize the need to have plans in place for staff if you have a confirmed case in your county, district or school.
1) If we are to have a continuity of education, we need clarification on the Act of God day designation, a variation of definition or a new designation for a global pandemic. This will require working with ISBE, the General Assembly and the governor’s office.
2) We will work with ISBE to seek clarification around the usage of e-learning and/or distance learning and how we can implement these on a varied basis.
3) We are reviewing a list of mandates that need to be temporarily relieved so that we can act locally in the best interest of our students, districts and communities. A list of temporary mandate relief in the areas of assessments, special education, FOIA, Open Meetings Act and board governance is currently being compiled.
Stepping Up: Sharing our Stories:
1) Please use the #ILSCHOOLSSTEPUP hashtag to share your story as we collectively work through something that our country hasn’t faced since 1918 when the Spanish flu swept across the world. I mentioned this last Thursday in my memo to the members. Be St. Louis, don’t be Philadelphia. Google that if you don’t what that means.
To close, I want to make sure you are aware ISBE has a dedicated page on its website to
guidance and updates that all school leaders should check out.
Thank you for your continued support of our students.